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Parading Fiction As Fact
Posted: Saturday, August 21, 2004

By Stephen Kangal

May I refer to Selwyn Cudjoe's Commentary reply (Guardian 14 Aug. p.27) to Senator Seetahal's column (Sunday Guardian 8 Aug.). I wish to state that I do not hold any brief for Senator Seetahal being her erstwhile devoted critic.

I am not astonished that Cudjoe, a learned professor can stoop to using false, meaningless and baseless hypotheses (not even theories) to perpetuate and justify past and current statal discrimination against the majority of citizens of this country. He has been doing this ever since he began to agitate to gain Afro-Trinbagonian audiences.

In his first salvo Cudjoe believes that the current large enrolment of Indians at UWI (mostly women), IOB, TTIT will relegate "his people" to second class status relative to Indians from which the Indians would appear to have emancipated themselves. I fail to appreciate how the enrolment of Indian women students at UWI based on transparent, competitive, academic selection criteria can redound to the disadvantage of my African brothers. The success of Indians must not be projected to the detriment of Africans. The ethnic configuration of UWI enrolment is a reflection of the performance of candidates at the SEA and GCE Examinations where women are outperforming their male counterpart hands on.

When I attended UWI in the 60's and 70's, 70% of the student population and more than 80% of the faculty were Afro-Trinbagonians. Did this deter future Indian students from pursuing their legitimate career goals or become an underclass? That was the era when Afro-Trinbagonians also dominated the student enrolment in QRC, St. Mary's, Fatima, Presentation, John D and San F'do Tech. That was also the discriminatory era when 90% of Government tertiary scholarships/bursaries tenable overseas and also at UWI (Mona and St. Aug.) were awarded to my Afro brothers and sisters. That was when with a Distinction (1) in A' Level English I failed to receive a Government scholarship after umpteenth applications.

In respect of public sector employment patterns, the State ("Mother T&T") cannot and should not discriminate amongst its children. Contrary to Cudjoe the trend worldwide is not "to cut back on public services" but rather on the increase based on demographic changes. These services are being increasingly privatised/contracted out to the likes of CEPEP, MTS, SWMCOL, RHA's and URP. The point is that Afro-Trinbagonians do not and must not enjoy a divine monopoly or sacred right or preference to employment in the state sector. The state sector is more subject to the principles of transparency and accountability. The current over-representation can only result from a history of endemic discrimination, nepotism and political patronage.

Cudjoe also falsely states that "private employers are likely to favour their own". Has Cudjoe undertaken an employee audit in the private sector to determine whether the Chinese, the Syrian-Lebanese, the French Creole, the Whites and ex-patriate Anglo-American entrepreneurial class who make up the bulk of the employers are employing their own? That is a demographic impossibility. What is the work-force composition at ISPAT? Does the ANSA/ Mc Al Group employ any Syrian-Lebanese media workers etc at the Guardian/TBC Network?

Who are the CEPEP contractors and URP ghost gangs recruiting in overwhelming numbers with a State payroll in excess of $500m for painting stones white while $50m could not be spent to keep Caroni Ltd afloat?

Cudjoe is clearly advocating that the PNM Government's ethno-nationalistic policies, programmes and priorities must continue to divide this country along racial lines after 42 years of nationhood. That is the current status quo that he supports. How credible therefore is his aspiration for "the equality of all its citizens"? Equality is skill-based, means-tested, colourless, blind justice but for Cudjoe justice and morality are exclusively black. How can he therefore deny equality of educational opportunity to Indian women at UWI when for decades through cultural and social reasons they were left out of the education system? For Cudjoe all Trinbagonians are born equal. Some are, however more equal than others because of their ability to speak louder, better, monopolise the media and to follow up their words with potential aggressive intentions.

Some independent study must be conducted to determine the relative income distribution/ house-property values/education/literacy rate primarily between Africans and Indians to dispel the current oft-repeated myth that Africans are in danger of being "second class citizenry" or "a permanent underclass" only because Indians are made out quite erroneously to possess more money and fair game for kidnappers. That is playing dead to ketch corbeau alive and stimulating and justifying banditry and kidnappings against the docile Indian community that subscribes to the "shanti" principle.

The last official survey conducted in 1960 (The Probe-Indian Arrival Day Supplement-2004) showed that while the average income of the Indian was $77.00 that of my African brother was $104.00 without any conspirational theory being adduced. Since then with the advent of the PNM the latter has commandeered the highest paid service and energy-based jobs and enjoyed economic and social mobility resulting in the gap becoming even wider than 1960. Indians have never coveted the wealth of their African brothers.

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