A Way of Seeing

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 25, 2012

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeDr. Bhoe Tewarie is an academic; so am I. Dr. Tewarie is a Hindu; I am an Orisa, sometimes Anglican. Dr. Tewarie is Tapir/NAR/PP; I have always been a member of the PNM. Dr. Tewaire has been principal of UWI/ Arthur Lock Jack/ Minister of Planning and Economics; I am a professor, researcher and writer of books. Dr. Tewarie is busy planning our 50th anniversary celebrations; I am at the British National Archive researching the first fifty years of our nation’s history (1800-1850). As nationals, there cannot be a starker dichotomy of two lives.

A few months ago, Dr. Tewarie announced his plans for the celebrations. Several people, most of them Black and PNM, have complained that Dr. Williams’ presence is mostly absent in the celebration’s activities. At best, it is underplayed. For some months Jennifer Baptiste has been complaining about this omission.

When these complaints were brought to Dr. Tewarie’s attention he opined: “Government can’t build the country’s 50th anniversary celebration around the figure of Dr. Eric Williams, notwithstanding the fact that he is [the news report used the helping verb ‘was’] considered the father of the nation…he has his place; he has his role. The Hon. Prime Minister acknowledged him and others fully in her statement at Queen’s Hall.”

The first response to this statement is to get angry and shout racism. Dr. Tewarie counterpoints that it was PNM MPs who are divisive (and I suspect racist) when they did not attend the opening of the government’s celebration at Queen’s Hall which proves the PP government and its supporters are the patriots; PNM and black people are non-patriotic and anti-Trinidad and Tobago.

Part of the problem has to do with what I will call a trajectory of vision or a way of seeing. My first encounter with politics, took place in 1950 (I was only seven years old) when Mc Donald Stanley, a chief lieutenant of Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler, fought Badhase Sagan Maraj, the leader of the Maha Sabha and father in law of Sat Maharaj. Stanley lost and Maraj won.

I am not sure if Stanley ever became a member of the PNM (he probably remained a Butlerite) but by 1956 Constantine became the standard bearer of the newly-formed PNM in Tunapuna defeating Surupat Matura of the newly-formed People’s Democratic Party by 169 votes. My boyhood-friend Michael Kangalee and I took sides during that election: I supported the PNM; he supported the PDP. Some years later, he went off to Canada to study; I went to the United States to do the same thing.

In spite of Dr. Tewarie’s rhetoric, our political and ideological paths were set and certainly colored for the next fifty five years thereafter. In those early years, most of my education, academic and political, came from the minds of Eric Williams, C. L. R. James, Constantine, Winston Mahabir, Gerard Montano and other PNM luminaries. I cannot vouch for it, but I am almost positive Dr. Tewarie’s political and ideological education came from men such as Badase Maraj, Dr. Rudranath Capildeo, Simboonath Capildeo, Lionel Sekeuran and others.

I do not offer this dichotomy to suggest that one trajectory is necessarily better than the other but to affirm that they were different. Each shaped our ways of seeing and framing the reality of our world. To someone like me, and I am sure many other members of the PNM, Dr. Williams remains an absolute genius who freed the society from colonialism and led us into independence.

There were bit players, but Dr. Williams looms central in our imagination as the absolutely dominant figure in the transition from colonialism to independence and the singularly most important person responsible for keeping the ship of the nation aright during the last turbulent 50 years.

Again, I may be incorrect, but for Bhoe Tewarie and most of his PP members, pride of place during our first fifty years of independence go to Badase Maraj, Rudranath Capildeo and others who they saw as playing a restraining role on Dr. Williams’ dictatorial tendencies. After all, he even referred to the Indians as a “recalcitrant minority” and called their Hindu schools “cowsheds.” After fifty years, such assertions remain deeply embedded in their collective psyche leaving searing traces of regret and distaste.

When Dr. Tewarie and I view the same record over fifty years (after all, facts remain facts) we see different things. He sees a tyrant, perhaps a maniac, when I see a shining patriot to be honored and revered. However, it seems contradictory when he claims, in the same breath, that Dr. Williams “is the father of the nation” but an equal player like all others, who has his “place and his role” in our history. This formulation does not work for me.

In 1824, when Jean Baptiste Philippe, one of our earliest patriots, was pleading with the British Government to honor the place of the coloreds in our society (he called himself a “Free Mulatto’) he averred: “If lions could paint, in the rooms of those pictures which exhibit men vanquishing lions, we should see lions feeding upon men.”

Any reflective person of the nation’s politics (and yes Dr. Tewarie, it is always political) can see that the lions, metaphorically speaking, are now doing the painting and sure like hill they are re-arranging the nation’s mental furniture to suit their understanding and that, my friend, is reflective of a deeply ideological regime at work.

Rather than become angry at Dr. Tewarie and the PP for their deep ideological reformation of the society’s memories let us understand that the misnomers about the Ganges meeting the Nile and “all ah we is one” are just that: fictions that are meant to soothe our tribal suspicions.

In a way, it comes down to our different ways of seeing but our historians can help us in this regard. As Nicholas Draper affirms, the historian’s function is “to re-establish the relationship between past and present and in doing so to constrain memory within the discipline of history.”

I hope that our historians are equal to this charge.

15 thoughts on “A Way of Seeing”

  1. Dr. Williams wanted no recognition, he requested that NO monuments be raised in his honor. At his funeral people were upset because his casket was sealed, he died a broken man. Broken by the same people he laboured for.

    Since his passing the PNM has name several monuments in his honor. Eric William medical sciences center amongst others against his wishes. Nevertheless on the 50th Anniversary he should be honored. What stands out for me his effort to educate the nation. Back then school bags had books today guns and drugs.

    But the generation— the “Cudjoe generation” that grew up with Eric will always find a special place in their heart for the father of the nation. However, there is a new generation and they are not connected to the mystery of Eric.

    What has to happen in this 50th anniversary is a de-politicisation of this celebration. People should be free to read Eric speeches freely. NAEAP should go to Woodford Square and read his speeches all day long. That I think would be the best way to honor him. The celebrations should NOT be founded on controversy, all should get involve including PNMites.

    Independence should not be only about ONE person. It should be about (1) Education, (2) Culture (3) History (4) A people arriving. That way all can celebrate in their own way and collectively as a young nation.

    Trinidad is NOT America and does not possess that level of patriotism to treat Eric like a god.

  2. “After all, he even referred to the Indians as a “recalcitrant minority” and called their Hindu schools “cowsheds.” After fifty years, such assertions remain deeply embedded in their collective psyche leaving searing traces of regret and distaste” (CUDJOE)
    Many Hindus also believe that they were treated as second class citizens by the successive PNM governments. They provide a great amount of evidence to support this accusation. Statistics on hiring practices in every branch of the civil service and appointments to various government institutions over the years have been presented on numerous occasions. They hold Eric Williams responsible for beginning this negative campaign against them and keeping them “down”. But worst of all, there is a deeply held belief that those who repeatedly elected the PNM were also part of this conspiracy to alienate and minimize Hindus in T&T.
    The calypsonian Lord Superior voiced these sentiments in Trinidad, when he urged Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams, on the eve of independence in 1958, to “tax them” Indians “mad”:
    It have some old Indian people
    Playing they like to beg
    This time they got one million dollars
    Tie between their leg
    I am telling the Doctor
    I am talking the facts
    Is to chop loose the capra [cloth]
    And haul out your income tax.

  3. Mamoo, long time no hear.
    You wrote: “However, there is a new generation and they are not connected to the mystery of Eric.” There is no ‘mystery’ of Eric; there is a ‘history’ of Eric. Some people might think it is cool, but we sound quite dumb when we do not know the history of our own Independence, of our country. I recall a bright High School student while singing David Rudder’s song, had no clue about Parlatuvier. Maybe this generation needs to get with the programme and avoid sounding like the fools American think all non-Americans are.

    But it is your last paragraph/sentence that threw me: “Trinidad is NOT America and does not possess that level of patriotism to treat Eric like a god.” Maybe we need to take example from the Americans. Just like us, they came on a ship, but unlike us they do not patronize far off continents. Like the calypsonian said a few years ago – we need to bring back some of the big country attitude instead of the I-Pods, cellphones and computers.

    Most people, including myself, do not know how to treat someone like a god. I don’t even know how to treat a god. Do you think kissing the feet of some politician in another country comes close?
    Until we Trinidadians stop thinking with what is growing out of our heads and start thinking with what is inside our heads, we are likely to remain fools in a Third World country.

    1. “Most people, including myself, do not know how to treat someone like a god. I don’t even know how to treat a god. Do you think kissing the feet of some politician in another country comes close?” Frontsman.

      Showing respect is a time honored tradition. Some cultures show it differently. In refrence to the “god” theme one must understand that Eric essentially created the Africana dream in T&T at the expense of others. However my point Frontsman is when celebrating a common history it should not be the factitudinal that guides. Rather it should be the inner pride of citizenship that directs us, a matter of the heart and not the head. That is what I was alluding to in this 50th year. The nation is NOT about a single individual, it is about a people coming of age from colonialism to the 21st century. Unfortunately those who believe the first PM was a god will engender division in society (because they want more focus on him) when there should be unity of mission and purpose.

      Independence was the mark of a nation being born and determining it’s own future. With all it’s problems, challenges and personal divisions, this nation is no longer answerable to a foreign power but we have subjected ourselves to our fellowman whom we believe have our best interest at heart– present and future. As the words of Sparrow stated “Indians and Negroes unite…we have won the battle call human rights ”

      My hope is that we will not turn the clock backwards but rather we should seek to treat people fairly with love and respect for each other. As the good book teaches “love your neigbour as yourself”. You have to love yourself first before you can love your neighbour. Independence carries with it enormous responsibility on how we treat others. It is easy Frontsman to love those who love you, but the true test of love is to love the unloveable. And so it behoves us to understand what I have written with the expectation that we will build a genuine friendship based on mutual respect rather than a false friendship were we secretly desire to kill each other. After all Fronstman none of us own anything here, it all belongs to our Maker, we are just stewards until our number is called. Then we have to give an account of our earthly stewardship.

      Say a prayer for your enemies and make the world a better place, as this 50th Anniversary celebrations begin…

  4. Eric Williams had a Vision, a vision to cut all Islands free from Massa, His ideal came through with T&T gaining Independence.For this period the nation and regions of the Caribbean are indebted.
    The Iconic Literature he left behind is Something worthwhile-“Classics” in its own spheres.
    I guess when Trinidad gained Independence in 1962- Everybody was so paralyzed, they did not know what to do! When the news break, Everybody look up with a smile, a grin, a chuckle. But what we go do now boy?
    You see the Crown still had to hold on, the Governor general still had to comply with the principles of colonialism. ” You could run, but you can’t hide”
    From this period the nation was a Youngster! Coming up with a Political party to steady the boat was the issue, At this time Eric already had views of the outside world-especially London that was the capital of Trinidad, even though we know about Port-Of-Spain. London for the Londoners!!!
    Yes! we may look back to the struggles and Hardship the nation was confronted with, but we have to move on now with the Advancement of the Future.
    All Hats off to ERIC!!! He served his Time, I guess he and Burnham in Guyana had their times! When Eric them gained Freedom, they had to get in terms as to how to carry it about. Oil, Pitch-Lake, Petroleum, Coffee and Coconut, Sugarcane was boss, but you see, at this time People from both races never knew that they were supposed to invest in their children’s Education so as to make them become the Future leaders of the Nation.
    This has been the downfall from around post-Colonial period. No proper Management and Administration, when the Massa them pulled out, this was the problem.
    Instead of pointing their children in the proper direction as to education: Bachelor’s Degree, Masters, and Ph.D. Pa Pa and Ma Ma looking to central and the Garden, some were looking to George Street and Gambling, Thank God some folks kept their head and make sure their children pursued an education.
    In Eric days- was the Oil Boom!!! Yet the Country was so backward, we have a Pitch-lake yet no good roads, A full Treasury but less necessities.
    Amar with the car plant made some good dollars, Neal and Massey, and BWIA, we never knew things would have gotten so hard, by not pre-paring, got us into this Jam.
    Days for the Race card gone now, is all ahh wee thing, T&T is bleeding from within, we need healing, mixing, and socializing,this spirit of superstition and coldness is foreign, we have to let it go, Trinidad is Tropical, nice breeze, rain, and sun, we can’t live like we’re from the Attic with that dampened Coldness, enjoy the sunshine and let the blood flow free.
    Politician need to mingle more with the people…The Race card and Jokers should be out of the Pack…

  5. We are always imitating the Americans in all that is NOT GOOD.
    George Washington, Republican,and first President; Thomas Jefferson, Drafter of the Constitution, and slave holder, and Abraham Lincon, the Emancipatr of the Slaves, and Republican, are all venerated Americans. They set down some guiing principles by which this country is still run. When some presients lead it off track, the Venerable Ones are recalled to help find the center again.

    A country with no “Father of the Nation” is a bastard country, destined t struggle in a wastelan.Would Jamaicans dispute the role of Bustamante? Would Barbadians decry Grantly Adams, or Grenada deny Mr. Marryshow?Then what is wrong with Trinidad?Perhaps we are a bastard culture made up of half breeds, and those who, according to Amartya Sen, would “rewrite history for nefarious political gain.” He was talking of the political arm of hindutva, who were actually rewiting Indian history to leave out the work of the great Muslim leaders of India, including the emperor who commisioned the Taj Mahal.
    I hope after the remarks at Mr. Ramnath’s funeral yesterday, any role they were planning to include for that one term Prime Minister, would be reduced to one line.

    That must be the sort of venemous statement some people love.Wherever Trinidad and Tbago Citizens gather in August, to celebrate who we are. Dr. Williams ‘ role would b elevated. Without his vision, our people would have long perished in the kind of ethnic strife now continuing in India after sixty years of independence.

  6. The 1950s saw the mass movement of islanders into sweet TnT. Over 50,000 (conservative estimate) came by boat, plane and any means available. Eric plan was simple to bring these islanders give them an ID and get them to vote for the party he founded. At one point it was said that there were more Grenadians in Trinidad than in Grenada, many of them settling in Point Fortin. The PNM gave them jobs in the oil industry and as police and nurses. They also gave them housing and encourage them to have big families.

    Eric fixed the boundaries so that he could go to bed and wake up the next day never losing an election. Racism was rampant and to get a job in government you had to have a PNM party card and be voting for the PNM. Every effort was made to keep Indians out of the halls of power. The army, coast guard, police and civil service saw up to 80% Africans employment. Often time as a friend of mine said you would find someone who could NOT read or write properly working as an engineer or in some high position. Of course the only people who were promoted were PNMites. The PNM made sure that millions were set aside in “scholarship” funds to educate their elite. Manning was caught with his $50 million boondogle. That is the bitter scar of the past that existed. Today we finally have some level of equity.

    “To someone like me, and I am sure many other members of the PNM, Dr. Williams remains an absolute genius who freed the society from colonialism and led us into independence”–Cudjoe.
    Credit must be given to Eric but he was not a genius in obtaining independence. Jamaica was the first to gain independence then Trinidad along with other Caribbean nations. Sir William Alexander Clarke Bustamante can rightly be deemed a genius. The British were not interested in keeping nations anymore as part of their bounty.

    On this 50 anniversary the year of jubilee. The year of jublilee is significant in Judeo-Christian beliefs. It is a year of freedom, a year of liberation, a year of hope and promise. In celebrating our nation’s past and future we applaud the efforts of those who made this nation great. The list is endless, from the literary work of Dr. Cudjoe, Kumar and others. To the politically strong roots of our democracy, may this year truly be a year of jubilee for T&T. And together we aspire, together we achieve. TnT is better today than ever before there is much to be proud of… Cheers..

    1. It seems as though the propaganda will never stop, because this disease called ‘victim syndrome’ must flourish.
      There were a lot of small islanders in T’dad before Eric Williams. As a matter of fact, most Afro-Trinis can trace their roots back to some other island. Are you saying that the major qualification for a job as a police or nurse was being a Grenadian? There was an examination process for these jobs, especially nursing. A lot of young women migrated to England to study nursing around that time. Why? Were people denied these jobs because of their race?

      When did this practice stop? What Housing Programme did the Government have in the 50’s and early 60’s? What was the encouragement to have large families? As I recall, the Indio-Trinis were the ones with the large families. The Government introduced Family Planning which was refused by the Indio-Trini, because the Gov’t was up to something sinister.

      Since when fixing Election Boundaries is a PNM thing? Power Brokers all over the world do this.

      “Racism was rampant and to get a job in Government you had to have a PNM party card and be voting for the PNM.” Make up your mind, was it racism or party membership? How do you know who someone votes for? Kamaludin Mohammed was a PNM along with the entire El Socorro area, he only became an “Indian” when he was not selected to be Prime Minister. People fall back on their race when things do not go their way, ask the African-American.

      I must have been one of the most unfortunate Afro-Trinis. Every single job I had in T’dad placed with an Indio-Trini Manager or Supervisor. I can write a book about my experiences in this so-called PNM country for black folks. I never benefitted. The last company I worked for, had an entire department of Indio-Trinis. The reason given was that only “Indians” took that particular course. Honest truth.

      This ‘victim syndrome’ continued in the 80’s, when Indio-Trinis claimed refugee status in Canada. That must have amused the Canadian Government. Sometime in 2008 or so, our now Hon. PM complained to the then Vice President of India on a visit to T&T, that “Indians” were being take advantage of.

      Mamoo, you can fool yourself, you can fool some of the people, but you sure cannot fool me. I lived it, I saw it.

      1. The influx of Caribbean people came to work partly in the oil fields, where anti-union tactics loved the isolated worker far from home base,and in the American military and air base complex called Waller Field or Ft.Read. This was in the 1940’s. I lived in Cumuto as a child, and mine was one of the few non-immigrant families living there.
        One comes, he likes it here, he brings his girlfriend, she tantie and she nen nen.Its the way of migrations everywhere.

  7. Mamoo, I am going to make two separate comments on this issue. The first is directed to you. Have you wondered about the outbreak of Dengue in south Trinidad? Dengue is endemic to India, SriLanka and Bangladesh.Does Barbados have dengue? Does Jamaica?
    Trinidad and Guyana have it because of the influx of illegal immigrants from South Asia to boost up the population of their ethnic bretheren in those two countries, TnT and Guyana, to pad the voter rolls.Not everyone who is a carrier gets it, but every carrier can help spread it.
    Furthermore, do not blame the Commonwealth Games held in India last year. If that was the source, there would have been outbreaks in Canada, Britain, in the summer, and Bermuda as well as Bahamas and Jamaica.
    Ironically, dengue may have claimed the life of Mr. Ramnath recently. If the doctors had not assumed dengue, they would have tested for heart problems through either a blood test an ekg or both. Instead their “probably dengue” and a recommendation to take a panadol, may have done the poor man in.
    Go figure.

    1. Linda you made those silly arguments before and now you are sounding like a tape recorder. The fact is disease travel as people do. For instance AIDS started in South Africa and several million people in Africa died of the disease, it is Trinidad and other parts of the world. West Nile has made it’s way from Africa to the U.S. all the way up to Canada, the West Nile mosquito is indeed deadly to the elderly.

      As for dengue no one knows the origin of this tropical mosquito borne disease. It is in India, Africa, the Caribbean and in many tropical nations. So I fail to understand your silly little assertions. Now to fight dengue people simply have to go around their home and get rid of bottles and containers of stagnant waters.

      The government through the Ministry of Health have to fish farm the sardines and release them in large bodies of stagnant water. These small fishes eat the mosquitoes larvae and it is a cheap effective way of controlling the mnosquito population. Such efforts must be long term and correctly directed. Nuff said.

  8. Dengue is considered to be a non-contagious disease. It never transmits from a person to another person and hence is not contagious. One must understand that dengue is primarily transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito called Aedes Aegypti that is more active during the day
    Apart from this physical transfer of infected blood from the patient to a healthy person, dengue cannot spread from person to person. There has been no report of the spread of the disease through coughing, sneezing or by touch.

  9. Its the mosquitoes, Idiot! It bites a who is a carrier, then bites b and regurguitates its spit into b, who may get the disease or become a carrie also.

    1. I was going to present the statistics to show the incidence of the Aedes Aegypti transfering the virus from one human carrier to another human , but then I thought, why bother to respond the Linda’s uncouth, rude and abusive comment.

  10. Since when are facts rude and abusive? I have written before, including a letter to the former Min of National Security about the loopholes through which I HAVE OBSERVED people coming in to the country who looked dubious. Instead of putting in cameras at the Airport to monitor what I spoke of, they moved Mr. Sandy out!I travel to Trinidad frequently, and have seen people coming to the country in flip-flops, -with toenails so dirty the mud of the sundarbans had not quite washed off. I have seen that they could not fill out the immigration forms in English, I have seen men with bundles of papers meeting incoming aircraft at Piaro, and presenting themselves at the immigration counter to serve as free entry for people.(All of them Indians) But Mr. Sandy was moved, not so? A plague on you, and those who sneak in diseases from Asia into our country.
    The UN has a mapof dengue areas, so has the CDC of the USA.

    I have in my blood residues/antibodies from smallpox, polio and tuberculosis, due to innoculations more than fifty-five years ago. They are there for life. I therefore do not give blood at donations.I will not run the risk of giving someone with a weaker immune system, an illness.

    Now, go wash your face, you ignoramus, and pay attention as our county slips and slides down the rotten road of corruption and despair.It will not get there because of anything I do, but because of the mindlessly greedy who would sell their bougie if the price was right.

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