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Judging TSTT's Book by Its Cover
Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2003

By Stephen Kangal

I refer to Martin De Souza's letter (Newsday Oct. 2, p.7) in which he commended the graphics that were designed to showcase our ethnic diversity on the cover of TSTT's 2003/04 directory.

My humble advice to Mr. De Souza as well as to our multicultural mosaic is one that is elementary: Do not judge a book by its cover.

There are too many misleading and deceptive covers attached to the hymn- books from which we are made to sing in T&T today. These covers have been designed and concocted by a well-compensated cadre of spin- doctors. They are intended to deceive, gloss over and sanitize the corporate image of those who pay the piper and are not to be taken as a reflection of reality.

I wonder whether Mr. De Souza has ever given thought to whether TSTT's workforce (a state monopoly company) adequately and equitably reflects, as it should, the ethnic composition and diversity/distribution of our population of which he and all of us are understandably so enamoured?

On page 11 of the same Newsday issue, one Gloria Williams (Point Fortin) takes TSTT to task over its arbitrary, secretive and non-transparent employment/recruitment practices. According to her TSTT has recently employed 467 new employees with only 13 of these jobs being advertised locally. Nepotism may have contributed to the employment of the other 454.

The Express of Tuesday August 19 in its editorial called for TSTT to be investigated with respect to its recruitment practices. One must ask, inter alia, the question why are Indians that may constitute the majority of the telephone subscribers in T&T not equitably or even peripherally represented among the highly paid work-force that is TSTT's?

The skills required for thousands of TSTT positions (Clerical, Administrative, Managerial and Technical) are really not so specialised that internal training programmes could not impart. It would appear that both TSTT and possibly the CWU are in collusion to deny nationals their constitutional right to equality of employment opportunity in the State Enterprises sector aided and abetted by a Government unwilling to implement The Equality of Opportunity Act.

Is TSTT still a party group of the PNM as TELCO was during the regime of Carl Tull (CWU President) who regularly donned the trappings of a one-eyed pirate (Black Beard) in his old mas incarnations when Telco s financial transactions/operations were suspect?

This is a quote of the said Express editorial on TSTT:

"...The same strict tendering procedures within the Government and State enterprises that were the major concern of the Commission of Inquiry into the airport must be consistently observed in the procurement of human resources. Every citizen must have an equal opportunity to compete for the jobs in the public and state sector and the selection thereafter must be on the basis of merit, not on friendship and other personal factors..."

Living in Canada Mr De Souza does not know the harmful and arbitrary extent to which TSTT exploits its monopolistic position. Read the commentary of Walrond James in the Sunday Newsday (5 Oct.). TSTT is holding Dhart Mai T&T and doing business in T&T to ransom by its exorbitant charges in the telecommunications sector. Incidentally there are 4 African images out of 8. Is this reflecting the requisite true ethnic balance on the cover?

Being resident in Canada, Mr. De Souza must inform himself that more than any other country worldwide, Canada has an official Government policy on multiculturalism (ethnic diversity). It has designated a Ministry on Multiculturalism and appointed a T&T-born Minister, passed laws and statutes and established institutions to uphold the tenets of multiculturalism. This is its serious and not cosmetic policy response to the ethnic diversity within its borders.

Mr. De Souza may himself unknowingly be a beneficiary of Canadian Employment Equity Legislation that provides for equality of employment opportunity and not to be discriminated on the bases of race, religion, gender or any other fundamental human right. TSTT violates every known tenet of employment equity standards and practices.

Accordingly Mr. De Souza may be in for some disappointment that he cannot impress his co-workers when he returns to Canada by flagging the cover of the said TSTT directory. What will he say when they the Canadians, especially workers at Bell Canada the counterpart of TSTT, begin to ask him pertinent questions about what the Gov't of T&T does to manage, conserve, reinforce and harness T&T's rich cultural diversity?

Will he tell them that T&T has recently constituted and appointed two talk shops, one of which is pre-empted by Prime Ministerial decree from making any recommendations to Gov't on race relations? Will he tell the Canadians that after of 41 years of Independence during which a policy of rampant ethno-nationalism was prosecuted as in Jamaica (the Jamaicanisation process), T&T is polarised ethnically as never before and there are large pockets of alienation and the culturally marginalised. This will surely not impress the Canadians who are the conscience of the international community.

Will Mr De Souza avail himself of the opportunity, before he returns to exult in the pleasures of his exile in Canada, to view a free performance of "The Golden Masquerade", our contribution to the Carifesta cultural pageant? Only then he can decide for himself whether it truly, adequately and equitably reflects whatever little harmony that underpins our cosmopolitanism?

For those of us who are au fait with the Canadian approach to multiculturalism, equity and justice they will not be impressed, Mr. De Souza with the cover of your TSTT Directory.

If your intention is to impress buy some duty free Angostura rum punch before you board your Sky Service flight instead and you will really impress your Canadian friends.

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