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Multiculturalism and Cultural Co-Existence
Posted: Monday, December 13, 2004

By Stephen Kangal

May I venture to critique a sampling of the many misleading conclusions peddled by Mrs Marion O'Callaghan in her Newsday Commentary (Monday 6 Dec. p 11). She sensationalised that a policy of multiculturalism was tantamount to introducing cultural apartheid in T&T. She is obviously defending the status quo irrespective of how unjust and discriminatory the prevailing system happens to her since it is beneficial to the tribe in the same way that she defends the retention of the Trinity Cross in the face a overwhelming legitimate protest mounted by the Hindu/Moslem community.

On the contrary, what we have had here in T&T since 1962 is a policy and practice of an assimilationist, ethno-nationalist agenda that in fact spawned and unleashed cultural apartheid, marginalisation, alienation and unbridled State discrimination. The descendants of the victims of this brutal system are of the view that black nationalism/the divine right to dominate T&T is what continues to bi-polarise us ethnically. The basis for the rising tide of Indo-protest is not the decline in agricultural bonding as falsely posited by Mrs. O'Callaghan. Indians voluntarily left agriculture via Presbyterian education to access the high paying white collar/ professional/commercial and the services sector jobs.

An official policy on multiculturalism as adopted by progressive societies such as Canada UK, Australia, Sweden and Estonia is geared to manage ethno- diversity, to foster and promote cultural harmony/justice and fairness via cultural co-existence and spontaneous cross fertilisation.

O'Callghan's exaggerated "Clash of Cultures" cannot result from a policy of multiculturalism in T&T. Here the cultural expressions of more than 40% of our peoples have been hitherto alienated and excluded from the cultural mainstream with impunity and no clashes. Hence the emergence of The Principles of Fairness.

What is this "composite culture" that O'Callaghan suggests that we have created "over the centuries"? That is a joke when one considers that the distinctive culture of more than 40% of our peoples is here only 160 years ago. Slavery did not permit culture to flourish. Did the anglo-franco-colonials ever allow any culture to be created here or to evolve when the dominant and all-pervasive education/value system was imported and wholly Saxonised? Our Africa brothers were forced to assume the names of the French slave masters.. Indian culture was paganised, ostracised and relegated to the rural backwards?

I could not contain my surprise when O'Callghan, a Newsday reader I hope, stated that there has been no debate on multiculturalism. That is false and misleading. I gave a widely publicised lecture on multiculturalism on October 7 and a Civic Society Resolution was passed on the subject. Gordon's Eight Principles of Fairness are fundamental to and constitute the foundations of multiculturalism if Mrs. O'Callaghan understands the doctrine. Countless individuals including Newsday columnists Devant Marahaj and Trevor Sudama and organisations (Newsday 22 June, p 11) have issued statements supportive of the policy.

Mrs. O'Callaghan discredits the locus standi of the UNDP when this UN Funding Agency has funded extensive research on multiculturalism under UNESCO's MOST Programme. UNDP is not the same as the IMF and the World Bank because there are no lenders-only UN member contributors.

O'Callaghan laboured in vain to establish a non-existent link, on the one hand between three old, long established homogeneous societies such as Holland, France and Germany and their respective responses to the cultures of minority, "guest worker" communities and on the other hand with multicultural and totally-immigrant composed T&T. When T&T emerged into nationhood in 1962 it was already a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society unlike the European societies that she identified. The principles of multiculturalism were embedded in our National Anthem/Motto, enshrined in our 1962 Constitution by a multi-ethnic legislature, public service and Judiciary. So was the system of education that was driven by the principles of denominationalism. T&T is a unique cosmopolitan society that is largely incomparable except perhaps with Guyana and Fiji.

Please Mrs O'Callaghan our legislature long achieved ethnic balance without a policy on multiculturalism.

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