Fanning the race flames

By Raffique Shah
June 01, 2014

Raffique ShahThe persons who orchestrated the racist placards that triggered a furore that lingers long after the protest-dust has settled do not belong to any “lunatic fringe”, as some politicians suggest.

They are perfectly sane, albeit devilishly motivated in their evil designs. Anyone with a modicum of sense could discern that the pro-Rowley placards were intended to have the extreme opposite effect—cast the PNM leader as a bigot, as being anti-Indian to the extent that he would display his venom openly, outside Parliament to boot.

In fact, it was more than passing strange that even as the trade unions-led demonstration criss-crossed the streets of Port of Spain, the first pictures of the offensive placards borne by a handful of men clad in red T-shirts were posted on the pro-Government blogs, which was when I saw them.

Imagine, thousands of spirited protestors, PNM members included, merrily and vociferously parading through the city with an array of anti-Government placards, but the only ones circulated, cleverly calculated to draw the ire of all right-thinking citizens, were these vulgar displays.

Immediately, the backlash began: Keith Rowley is a damn racist…we always knew that! What else could you expect from the PNM? And so on they “poked”, as they say in cyber-lingo.

No one paused to consider what, if anything, Rowley stood to gain by such obscene display. Indeed, the simple deduction that he would lose tonnes of goodwill and thousands of potential votes did not register on those who pounced on the PNM leader.

I was not surprised when a man who claimed he was homeless, and he and others had been paid by someone to carry the offensive placards, surfaced on television news. The police are currently investigating the matter, but I doubt they would uncover the full story, most of all who was (or were) behind the plot to fan the race flames.

There is a term used to classify such devious persons, not frequently used, but not unknown to our politics: agent provocateur. It is defined as a person employed to induce others to break the law so that they can be convicted.

But its definition is broader than that. Agent provocateurs are commonly used to create political mischief, even to have triggered wars. One hundred years ago (on June 28), in the city of Sarajevo, an assassin shot dead Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife. That incident triggered the First World War that lasted almost five years and resulted in the death of tens of millions of people and the destruction of huge swaths of Europe.

I draw on the Archduke’s assassination merely to illustrate how devastating the actions of agent provocateurs can be. In the instant case, someone or some group of persons seems to have determined that the surest way to neutralise Rowley and the PNM electorally is to paint them as racist.

Who stands to gain in such scenario? The UNC, of course. This is not to say that elements in the UNC might have been behind the placards plot. For all we know, there might be disaffected members of the PNM who do not want to see Rowley emerge as Prime Minister. Or even more sinister, there might be some subversive group intent on fanning the race-flames to keep the population divided-we don’t know.

And we may never know, given the poor record of the police in investigating crimes. In this instance, the information available thus far is that a man clad in a red T-shirt orchestrated the dirty deed. There were thousands such persons in Woodford Square that day, a classic case of looking for a needle in a haystack.

It is not the first time agent provocateurs have been used to stir up mischief here. During the Black Power revolution in 1970, peaceful demonstrations would suddenly turn violent as mysterious persons masquerading as protestors smashed shop windows. Also, against all that the movement stood for, unknown men wearing dashikis would insult or attack Indians.

On the eve of the elections in 1976, when the ULF had attracted significant Afro support in the East-West corridor, a massive motorcade turned nasty when seemingly drunken Indians hurled invectives at Afro supporters who stood along the route. The ULF leaders would learn of this after the fact, and we never found out who the offenders were-but it cost us critical votes.

The police can hardly help in such situations. When huge crowds gather or are on the move, provocateurs find fertile ground for their nefarious activities. Only the masses, if they remain alert to such threats, can avert them. At times, it might be necessary to administer on-the-spot justice to the culprits: a few “caplets” would suffice!

We are in a one-year sprint to a general election that is a battle not just for power, but for survival. Whichever party loses, PNM or UNC, is likely to become irrelevant to the future politics of the country.

As desperate as they may be, the politicians must not be allowed to destroy the fabric of our society in their quest for power. We citizens must detect and reject most forcefully their divisive devices.

12 Responses to “Fanning the race flames”


  • All I’m willing to say on this is to temper your comments people. This is a type of article….though legit in its presentation…is the type that fools lie in wait for to spew their venom. There is good and bad in everyone of us so be careful when using your slingingshots…for I know you will.

    Peace & Love
    Namaste

  • It is unfortunate that in the year 2015, a host of problems affect us all and the topic of choice to upstage all others is RACE! Regardless of which party you belong to lack of proper utilities is a problem, crime is a problem, quality of life is a problem, tainting of the social fabric is a problem, our very method of delivering ‘democracy’ is a problem, education is a problem, vagrancy is a problem, delivery of governmental services is a problem, systemic correctional mismanagement is a problem, things simple as getting a passport is a problem, the delay in delivering justice is a problem, the delivery of health and medical services is a huge problem, child developmental services is a problem, these issues are all very terrible and there are little or no means of addressing them properly that those who are satisfied have to go through nefarious means in order to be satisfied with these deliveries and even then, it is usually late and untimely. THERE IS NO ONE UNDER THIS SUN CAN HONESTLY TELL THAT THESE ARE UNC OR PNM PROBLEMS! They are people problems of the first order and yet! Politicians choose to focus one the ONE issue that they KNOW the individual ( especially the ignorant) will surely act upon and that is the subject of RACE. Usually I am impressed with Raffique’s assessment and treatment of the subject matter but whilst he brought a relevant subject matter, his handling of it could have been treated with better balance. It should come as no surprise that ‘Republican style’ campaigning has reached our election campaigns. In the United States, that style of deceit and ‘dirty campaigning’ work very well in the Southern United States in states like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas and many Mid Western states because their population are mainly rural, lesser educated, populated mostly by ‘conservative’ leaning people whose indoctrination consists of a healthy dose of revivalist christianity (many false and misleading ones at that), racial superiority and inferiority and beliefs systems that defy scientific truths. So dirty campaigning has a ready mind willing to absorb the innate lies and subversive practices that engulfs misleading campaign tricks as the one Moonilal is on record as saying is common and is OK to be used. The successful use of it by the UNC against Skippy Barrington at the Himalaya Club is a classic case of this rather clumsy tactic that can only result negatively on the population at large than any good it can do for the UNC. Historical treatment of RACE in this country has never been positive. In colonial days the White man treated Indian religious marriages (especially hindu) as ‘lacking in acceptance’ and the custom of ‘marrying under bamboo’ had to be a two part process, 1. the ceremonial rights conducted ‘under bamboo’ and 2. the registration completed in the warden’s office. I hear the constant and historical refrain of Dr. Williams utterance of the words ‘recalcitrant minority’ which in itself is not insulting, being treated as RACIAL but never read an Indian referral to the disdain and racial practices conducted by the white man in Trinidad and Tobago, even though it is well documented. But the Indian disdain for things considered PNM and therefore ‘racial’ is before our eyes everyday. The UNC’s treatment of RACE is one in which they find it necessary to remind their people of the perceived competition with the Afros for control of the politics and civil services ( as Stated by Sat Maharaj just yesterday) in order to maintain culture, sustain religious and ethnic identity. It is a defense mechanism which has always worked and will continue to work until a new brand of ‘defense’ supercedes. Our Visa ‘problems’ with Canada today is derived from the enactment of that kind of ‘defensive’ mechanism, where, when felt threatened by the PNM ‘hooliganism’ which people like Mamoo is famous for stating, emigrated to Canada enmasse, stating upon arrival that the Afro men raped their women, terrorized their communities and targeted them for violence. Upon investigation, the Canadian government never found truth to these accusations but why will use any means necessary to achieve the required ends. There was even a case of a ‘rasta’ found breaking in to ‘rape’ an Indian woman, only when apprehended, it was an Indian man. These practices can NEVER be healthy. They may achieve short term gains but will eventually interject negative beliefs and habits. Inviting ‘dirty tricks’ into our politics may or may not produce short term benefits BUT can NEVER be good for the development of this country. People like Moonilal ought to rethink their proposed use of these practices for political gain, otherwise radiation of the MAIN problems of this country WILL NEVER OCCUR. This is ugly truth but someone needs to say it over and over again and the purveyors of lies and untruths musty never be tempted to take the country such ugliness.

  • I don’t see Rowley as a racist but I can see clearly the UNC are racist and I strongly believe the person with the placard are UNC politician trying to tarnish the PNM also how come the UNC lawyer claim the minister who was in position of marijuana is not the said minister and it is not his picture and how can you quickly rush to such conclusion ?.I can see you as a racist,people are smarter than long ago

  • Look the fact is, and we see it all the time in this blog, those who come from a long and enduring cultural history of racial prejudice have adopted the strategy of pawning their traits off on Africans. They seek to accomplish two outcomes with this. One is to, obviously, obfuscate their own hereditary religious beliefs that lend to the notion that they are superior and Africans are inferior. And the other is to place that guilt trip shackle of black people so that they become reluctant to expose and criticize a pattern of racial prejudice that has become endemic in geographies like T&T, Guyana, Fiji, and to some extents, even Suriname.

    Anyone following the politics in the four mentioned Nations will see a remarkable similarity in the development, and the foundation of racial prejudice in those nations. They will be able to link it directly to a history of beliefs and traditions, and its journey to and occupancy in these nations. They will see the same pattern of denial, of trying to visit the traits on others, of hollering all they time about racism while being repositories of the kind of cultural prejudice frighteningly reminiscent of the beliefs that fueled the hate in the Third Reich. Only this time the order comes under RSS, an organization with a history as old as the Third Reich.

  • Hmmmnn…Mr Rodwell Paton, Do you honestly believe that Mr. Modi will seriously try to pull off that stunt knowing that such a massive country / economy stands to lose in trade? Surely he is smarter than that! It would seem that the partitioning of Pakistan and Bangladesh is not enough for the zealots….they want the whole hog. Think of this for a minute. He might be tempted to push back since his country is historically Hindu, and this might be seen as Nationalism…a good word…..but ALWAYS misused. The diaspora that always look across the kala pani from wherever they are might try to repeat the same practice…thinking it must be right since the mother country is doing it…sic!

    It has always amused me (not really) that the caucasian man dishes venom on these poor souls and a blind and loving yet sub serviant eye is ever turned away. I think the caste system that’s been practised for so long has literally been ingrained to the extent that it is now a genetic predisposition to simply accept bullshit as staying in your place. This is also now becoming part of the black western experience….sigh.

    • Rodwell’s point should be well taken. As of this moment none of us know what Mr. Modi will do, maybe he too at this stage don’t know what he will do, but politicians do not stray too far away from their background and experience. We hear so much about the development of India and how the educated and young use the amenities of modern day elites, yet, at the centre of all this, it takes hours to travel short distances in driving in the city. We hear of meetings being conducted in taxis in order to make better us of time and space because the logistics of all meeting at one location, at a certain time is so difficult. Even if Modi maya want to tone his activism down, he will be taking with him his closet cabinet (possibly taken from his activist past) to the New Delhi. In this respect we should never underestimate the effects of the caste system.

  • Guyanese Mugabe Burnham used race to drive away thousands of Indians and in the process push Guyana a resource rich nation to become the 2nd poorest nation after Haiti in the Western Hemisphere. Rowley within his party individuals call his style Mugabe revisited. Why? That is a question only he can answer.

  • Rowley’s repeated actions and utterances suggest that he cannot be trusted to lead any country. His many attempts to unseat the majority government by engaging PNM supporters and trade unions in public demonstrations and marches point to his irritability,unstable temperament, questionable judgment, and “mash up the place” mentality.
    Whenever he is unable to get his way in the democratically elected Parliament, he takes to the streets after emotionally loaded outbursts in the House dominated by false or unproven accusations, innuendo and wajang-like behavior. His constant negativity, street-like, embarrassing and vitriolic attacks reflects more on his incapacity to lead rather than on his opponents.
    The strategy to paint him as a racist is flawed because he is not. The UNC campaign would be better off focussing on his lack of leadership qualities and his questionable psychological personality profile if they want to defeat him.

    • The birth of the PPP was in a union hall where all participants signed an accord – and you know that. There is an adage in politics which goes like this, “there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies”. Rowley has energized the masses and has given hope to the disillusioned and that is good for our democracy. Your government has failed us miserably, no amount of praises and awards for Kamla can take us out of the rot we are in. You see and read my comments as personal even though you cannot refute the FACTS. Your government were voted in to correct the mistakes the PNM made while in office. Instead of instituting measures to correct the wrongs and make things better, you have actually made the institutions and everything else worse. You chose to criticize Dr. Rowley as if he is running a government of his own, no he is the opposition and this job to let us know what you are up to.
      No amount of anti-Rowley phrases and statements can convince anyone that Rowley is the problem. Get used to it and know it. In the news tonight the British High Commissioner was furious about what is going on in this country. He stated the lack of governance and the breakdown of institutions and felt that we have reached the lowest of the lows. So, as a paid blogger you must have ways to convince people that your UNC is capable of governance. I am totally convinced otherwise because I want change and want it now. How do you defend firing a seasoned military and security expert and replacing him with a clerk? Rowley was the first to let you guys know that it was a conflict of interest to have Jack in the Cabinet and be a FIFA official at the same time. Your AG got Ellis Clarke to say that it was OK. There were 165 sailors and midshipmen completing training on the OPVs that Manning paid for and was due in Trinidad into weeks time, your goodly government cancelled it and said it was a waste of time and money. Brazil bought them and then asked for four more. When you could not find answers to the crime problem you called a state of emergency, locked up everybody, left, right and center and called them murderers, thieves and gang leaders. You could not convince the DPP by producing evidence of one such case, you had to release all four thousand of them. Is that leadership? Is that good governance? Is that the kind of management you want me to have? By your stance, it is probably good for you and your UNC people but it is definitely not good for Trinidad and Tobago.

  • TMan, you of everyone MUST know that is democracy in action. You may not like it but if it was the other way around you would be on the side of democracy. Not for one second do I believe that you don’t know that.

  • Democracies don’t just elect governments, they elects oppositions too, and this too you are very well versed about. You are now exercising you right to call him street-like, vitriolic, racist and words you wish to make him an uncomplimentary competitor and that is OK. You are well within your rights to do that. The rest of us who do not share your values and cultural beliefs will continue to state thing the way it is and you should respect that too.

  • I have read “each” response once.Because of my overdue absence from T&T thanks for the points of view from all the respondents.”Education is a right and not a privilege.It is the right of the individual to be educated” (Anon)

    The Government of T&T should introduce “Basic Adult Education” for the entire populace.These classes can be offered twice per week (e.g. Mon& Wed)(Tue&Thu) 7:00 p:m to 9:00 p:m basic Math/English which enable Adults to “reason” rather than “hate”

    Those who are unable to attend at nights have Saturdays as an option for a few hours.Encourage adults to “debate” current events.Award “certificates” after one/two years etc.They (adults)will appreciate dialogue with each other(regardless of their ethnicity)or their political preference.

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