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President Supports Diversity Management
Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2004

By Stephen Kangal

I wish to pay homage to His Excellency The President Professor Max Richards for according momentum and legitimacy in his speech to Parliament to the expanding cadre of patriotic citizens (Newsday 22 June p.11) who has appealed for national initiatives to be undertaken geared to manage, harness and exploit our diversity for the common good of all.

Diversity management will enable our cosmopolitanism to lead fulfilling lives and to be better and multiculturally educated so as to compete more efficiently in the challenging globalised world. In my view diversity management should take precedence and planning priority over and above the elusive, pie in the sky, expensive Vision 2020 public relations facade. The Vision 2020 is borrowed verbatim from Morocco and Malaysia. It is in fact a glorified development programme of the respective Ministries amalgamated in a composite format to be shelved when the novelty wears out.

Gone are the days when a culturally assimilationist policy of nationalism dishonestly emphasised our cosmetic similarities. It refused to cater for our fundamental multicultural differences and strengths. I am cautiously optimistic that the Presidential appeal in Parliament on diversity management will influence the Government to issue the long, outstanding White Paper on Managing Our Diversity.

This paper will constitute the fundamental policy framework to guide and stimulate national dialogue on the values and virtues of our multicultural landscape out of which should emerge a national consensus on diversity. We must provide vents and internal pressure release mechanisms to stabilise the boiling cauldron on ethnic inequity.

In my view it is the exclusionary, post- 1956 policy of rampant, parasitic nationalism that has long created fissures and fault lines and culminated in a highly polarised society. These racio-cultural rift valleys long pre-dated the current deluge of letters appearing in the print media that is merely the tip of the festering iceberg.

The role of the liberated and mushrooming media is to facilitate public- spirited dialogue even if some of the individual offerings may be extremist and cause some concern for the traditionalists. Let the people talk and vent their decades of pent-up frustration- to make their claims and counter claims. Maturation and consensual thinking will follow when we see each other as brothers and sisters and when the pangs of alienation, deprivation and discrimination have receded. I am confident of the peaceful, fruitful outcomes of the internal dynamics of the cross-cultural dialogue and cross fertilisation process.

The realisation/restoration of harmony in T&T must not be at the expense of the absence of justice and equality so characteristic of the pre- and post 1950's. Harmony must not be based on the sanctification of the unjust status quo that is favourable to the ruling urban elite. Harmony must not be silence-based, conformist and conservative in its contours. There are so many complex hypotheses, theories, theses, myths on prevailing racio-cultural relations that must be dispassionately investigated in the interest of achieving harmonious cross cultural co-existence and amalgamation that they call for a High Powered Commission on Equality and Human Rights to be established. The Center for Ethnic Studies and the National Cultural Commission have been abandoned. The two Race Relations committees are stymied of the requisite human, institutional and financial capacity and therefore, in the words of His Excellency unable " to go below the surface to separate theory from fact."

We are all, especially Indo-Trinbagonians, expected to remain quiet and docile almost karmic style because there is an illusory, invisible, blind hand that has been dispensing and will continue to hand out distributive and restorative justice and equity.

Even the Divine does not confer his grace and favour in this passive fashion. The believer has to request favours and grace in the exercise of his free will. Orare est laborare (Working is praying) There is a correlation between agitation, representations and lobbying and the enjoyment of the rewards dispensed by Mother T&T. Why do people join political parties? Why are the major infrastructural developments taking place in the East-West Corridor?

The Karmic philosophy of cause and effect, of equilibrium, of slavishly accepting your station in life as a just prescriptive reward of pre-destination and of the caste system are just not on in 21st Century T&T. Healthy civilised dissent/dialogue is not the harbinger of ethnic gloom and doom. It is the bedrock of democracy that is fuelled by a responsible, public- spirited media.

In T&T we are afraid to provide avenues for race relations to be to be faced frontally because we are uncertain of our respective ancestral memories, our cultural identities, loyalties and the constituent ancestral elements of being Trinbagonian. Perhaps Senator Seetahal will outline the elements in due course.

The more we postpone and waffle in initiating the structured dialogue on confronting full frontal racio-ethnic nudity the greater the internal strains and stresses.

This euphemism about time-consuming National Self-Discovery must be jettisoned from our psychic vocabulary.

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