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Responding to The Multicultural Imperative
Posted: Saturday, June 19, 2004

By Stephen Kangal

Having regard to the broad remit that the National Self-Discovery Committee "had and still has as its objective, the securing of genuine and sustained harmony among the people of Trinidad and Tobago" even though "it is not a race relations committee" I feel that it has a compelling and urgent obligation to take on board and consider the multicultural imperative as a potential tried and tested mechanism for helping it to foster multicultural harmony in T&T. In undertaking such an assessment of the multiculturalism option it must also extend its evaluation to the institutional and legislative aspects of the proposal and not be restricted exclusively to the policy formulation/ determination/ trumpeting process.

The membership of the National Self-Discovery Committee must be given resources to enable to visit countries that have successfully implemented a policy on multiculturalism such as Canada, Sweden, Australia and Estonia. The voluntary nature of the Committee is a big joke since it cannot undertake research/surveys of substance and meaning and can only deal with misleading cosmetics.

Multiculturalism or cultural pluralism as a national policy response to diversity has been described … "as a systematic and comprehensive response to cultural and ethnic diversity with educational, linguistic, economic and social components and specific institutional mechanisms…" to promote the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins.

Multiculturalism must be examined as critically as possible as one of many strategies of promoting harmony, the inclusion agenda, equality and peaceful cultural co-existence since nationalism has bi-polarized us. It must also be determined whether the adoption of an official policy of multiculturalism can effectively harness, mobilise and transform the multi-talented and literate human resource endowment of our diversity into incremental levels of prosperity. This can redound to the emergence and creation of a just, cohesive, modern and integrated 21st Century T&T.

As recently as Indian Arrival Day PM Manning (Newsday May 31, p.4) held T&T as "a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society". Prior to this he revealed his deep commitment to multiracialism (Newsday May 23, p.3).

HE the Indian HC Sri Virendra Gupta while addressing the recent UWI Diaspora Conference said: "In multicultural pluralistic societies there must be space for people to express their own traditional distinctive cultural identity …their traditions, customs, rituals and value system".

Several NGO’s have recently supported the adoption of a policy of multiculturalism. These include the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC), the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), SWAHA and The Mayor of Chaguanas Dr. Surujrattan Rambachan (Newsday May 27, p.6) Independent Senator Parvatee Anmolsingh-Mahabir voiced her support in the Senate for multiculturalism.

Newspaper columnists such as Sat Maharaj, Devant Maharaj (Newsday. April 13, p.10) Ms Leela Ramdeen, Michael Kallon, Attorney Anand Ramlogan and former MP Trevor Sudama (Newsday June 13, p.16) have all written forcefully in support of the issue. So have Pundits Deokinanan Sharma and Prakash Persad. I have also written at length on the experiences in UK and Canada with a policy of multiculturalism.

What more must be done to get Government to respond?

Should not Government now consider it of utmost importance to issue a White Paper on Managing Our Diversity to provide the framework for promoting consultations and national dialogue on, inter alia, potential legislative/ institutional approaches to harnessing diversity and fostering the protection of human rights and individual freedoms? Is not a policy framework fundamental to facilitating and underpinning the work of the two Race Relations Committees? Must not UWI also be encouraged to contribute to the debate?

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