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Archive

Address to GOPIO's Conference on Multiculturalism

By Stephen Kangal
January 31, 2011

What is ethno-cultural diversity?

The representation on one social system of people with distinctly different linguistic, cultural and group affiliations of cultural significance.

What is Integration?

"The harmonious co-existence of a community of citizens (e.g. the Indian and African communities) and a community of communities (T&T) in multicultural societies and the unimpeded interaction between them. It is not the one way process in which minorities are to be absorbed in to the non-existent homogenous structures of the dominant majority by giving up their distinctive linguistic, cultural and social characteristics. This is termed the assimilationist model similar to the Francophonie/Anglophone practice."

What is multiculturalism (MC)?

Multiculturalism has been described as a systematic and comprehensive statal response mechanism to managing and treating with cultural and ethnic diversity with educational, linguistic, economic and social components and specific institutional arrangements.

The initial support base of the regime of MC originated individually and collectively in the Indian community because that community that constituted the majority in T&T felt discriminated/alienated by the ruling urban political elite on many fronts and spheres of national life. These include state funding of Indian Festivals, Scholarships, recruitment in the protective services, representation and promotion in the public service etc.

Accordingly, the proposed expected introduction by the PP Government of a regime based on a strategy/public policy of multiculturalism as indicated by the Minister of Multiculturalism that should be geared and designed to manage and harness the diverse human capital endowment and ethno-cultural diversity/resources in T&T is;

  • firstly, the culmination of an internally generated but externally influenced (UK, Canada and the UN Conventions) and validated struggle to achieve equality and equity; and

  • secondly, the need to ensure the preservation/recognition/ validation and monetisation of the prevailing, distinctive, unique and rich cultural personality/ancestral memory, cultural resources and multicultural as opposed to national identity present and prevailing in T&T.

The Origins of the Multiculturalism Approach to Managing Cultural Diversity:

  1. The concept of MC is motivated by the principle of delivering social justice based on moral, ethical and social responsibility to improve the conditions of racio-ethnic and general minorities. In T&T it is intended to cater for the rights of the majority.

  2. It is dictated by legal obligations including affirmative action in employment equity legislation to eliminate racial and gender discrimination in education and employment.

  3. To increase the levels of competitiveness in the global market-place by harnessing the human capital found in multicultural societies.

The Reach and Scope of a Policy on Multiculturalism

A regime of multiculturalism in T&T does not and cannot restrict itself to devising exclusively criteria and methods for the equitable funding/management of religious festivals and the performing, literary, culinary, creative and plastic arts. This controversial issue of persistent unequal funding provided the germ or shall I say the sperm for the call by organizations such GOPIO, NCIC and the SDMS for the experimentation with MC as a strategy to correct the ethno-cultural evils of neglect visited by the historical past against the Indian community. The issues to be addressed are very national in scope and will include the concerns of all groups or communities.

That is to say that the financial resources of the State do not constitute the exclusive preserve and monopoly of any ethnic grouping.

According to the late Dr. Williams 1962 Independence Day Message, "Mother T&T cannot discriminate amongst its children". That was another statement on multiculturalism in addition to the aspiration included in the National Anthem: "Here very creed and race find an equal place."

The Legal Status to be Accorded to the Regime of MC

A strong policy statement on MC must constitute an integral part of and be embedded within the fundamental human rights section in the proposed new constitution of T&T from which no derogation driven by the political whims and fancies of incoming Governments especially that of the PNM will be permitted. There must be a Ministry or Department with responsibility for MC. Later, I will show that ethno-nationalism or ethnocentrism – the very antithesis of MC comes – naturally to the governing process of that organization.

The Practical Approach to Embedding MC

Taking into account the focus of this conference to concentrate on the practical steps as opposed to the academic and intellectual that should be followed to embed a culture, practice, policy, programme and procedures of multiculturalism in T&T I will restrict myself to identify, assess and analyse the various cultural/political/NGO responses hitherto conceptualized and employed in T&T to treat albeit superficially/politically with the challenges of ethno-cultural diversity from a historical perspective.

I am not aware that this approach has been documented before and, therefore, I feel that I can contribute to knowledge in demonstrating that nothing of any consequence has been done to address the serious challenges posed by the desire to achieve equity and social justice in an essentially diverse society.

This approach will help participants to gain an appreciation of where we are today from an equality/equity/diversity management perspective by demonstrating the inherent inadequacies/lack of the political will in these models that have been tried and tested so far and created an ethnically polarized society that we must revamp if we are to prosper and create a cohesive T&T in which social and distributive justice prevails.

I will assess:

  • The models that have been used to treat with the management of diversity including the local concept of national unity and the policy and practice of inclusion and leaving no one behind.

  • The forces (what God has put together in his wisdom) and stimuli (sugar plantation economy) that resulted in and produced the multicultural social configuration of the demographics of T&T with its inherent complementary range of skills and human endowments (The Mission to the Caribbean by Ravi Ji).

  • The European Cultural Imperialism Platform erected and installed during the Colonial Period by the French, Spanish and English in Law, Public Service, Education, the Performing Arts, Religion, and Communication.

  • The post-colonial era of ethno-nationalism and the "áll ah we is one" (Caribbean Man), "No Mother India/Africa" placebo - The post-colonial cultural separation/rural neglect of town from country. The National Anthem being the first statement of affirmation of MC. The 1962 Independence address of the First Prime Minister of T&T where he tried to wipe the underpinnings of ancestral memory and linkages.

  • The post-1995 involuntary and spontaneous UNC dismantling of ethno-nationalism. The integration of town and country and greater acceptability of the cultural practices of the rural backyards including commemoration events conducted by Ministries that promoted the validation process. More funding and recognition of Indian cultural practices and events as well as having a positive demonstration effect.

  • The Four Race Relations Committees beginning in 2002.

  • The PM Committee on Race Relations Talk Shop Committee headed by Kathleen Iniss, former Cabinet Secretary, featuring the saga between Selwyn Cudjoe and Sat Maharaj. This Committee was not authorized to make any recommendations for implementation by the Government.

  • The National Self-Discovery Committee constituted by the President headed by Professor Kenneth Ramchand based on his statement at the SDMS. This Committee had neither budget nor any research staff but conducted a few consultations across the country including in Tobago. At present it has gone into absolescence.

  • The Principles of Fairness Committee headed by Ken Gordon and its statement on managing diversity in T&T as a basis to achieving equity and social justice. Its Fourth Principle is:

"Our cultural and religious differences are an important asset, and the various communities that comprise our population must be free to engage in their cultural and religious practices without hindrance, provided that, in doing so, they respect the rights and freedom of others."

The Seventh Principle speaks of making:

"...every effort that our economic and political systems operate in such a manner as to produce a cohesive society in which equity and fair play are the guiding principles."

  • The Vision 20/20 Sub-Committee Committee on Culture and Ethnicity geared to translate the aspirations of the Vision 20/20 Statement on Culture and Ethnicity into a framework of national priorities. It held its one and only consultative session at the Crowne Plaza in October 2004 with the assistance of Kairi consultants and never invited participants from any of the three other committees mentioned.

  • The Vision 2020 states that:

    "Every citizen has equal opportunities to achieve his fullest potential...

    The diversity and creativity of all its people are valued and nurtured."

  • The Mixed Communities Initiative announced by PM Manning in 2006 as a means of treating with diversity.

  • Initiatives undertaken by the President Professor George Richards on diversity management.

  • The 2010 Designation at a SDMS function by the PM of a Ministry of Multiculturalism. This is an institutional announcement but replete with public policy implications that sets the platform for the requisite consultations.

  • The 2010 Conference on Multiculturalism held at the Centre of Excellence.

  • The Divali Nagar Resolution on Multiculturalism adopted in 2004.




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