Multiculturalism and Integration
Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2005
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF INDIAN CULTURE
The Colonial Life Insurance Co Ltd (CLICO)
The Borough Corporation of Chaguanas
Multiculturalism: The Key to Managing Ethno-Cultural Diversity and the Integration of Trinidad and Tobago
The Bisram Gopie Sangeet Bhavan
Narsaloo Ramaya Marg Chaguanas
October 07 2004
By Stephen Kangal
Text of Lecture
Mr. Chairman and Former Ambassador/ former Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister and current Adviser to the UN Secretary-General Mr. Reginald Dumas, His Worship the Mayor of the Borough Corporation of Chaguanas and Patron of the Lecture, Dr. Surujrattan Rambachan, our host The President of the NCIC, Pundit Deokinanan Sharma, Executive Members of the NCIC, Senator The Honourable Dr. Linda Baboolal, President of the Senate and Dr Baboolal, Your Excellency The Ambassador of the People's Republic of China, His Excellency Wang Zhiquan, Member of Parliament for St. Augustine, The Honourable Mr Winston Dookeran M.P., Senator The Honourable Parbatee Anmolsingh-Mahabir, Senator The Honourable Brother Noble Khan, Ambassador John S. Donaldson, Former MP Mr. Balgobin Ramdeen and Ms Leela Ramdeen, Mrs Kathleen Boswell Inniss, Chairperson of the Prime Minster's Race Relations Committee, Mrs Shama Deonarine of CLICO
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mr Patrick Edwards, Professor Dr. Brinsley Samaroo, Head of History Department at UWI
The Members of the Press and Electronic Media
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Good Evening, Namastay, Assalam Alaikum, Greetings to all.
2. I must convey my gratitude to Mr. Reginald Dumas for agreeing to return to his hometown of Chaguanas to kindly chair and moderate this lecture/ discussion. I also thank Mayor Dr Surujrattan Rambachan for according his kind patronage to the event and for all his support and inspiration. Gratitude must be conveyed to the President and Executive of the NCIC for kindly agreeing to host this lecture and for providing so many facilities to ensure the success of the dialogue on managing the human wealth endemic in our ethno-cultural diversity called Dharti Mai Trinidad and Tobago.
3.Thank you all distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen for responding to the invitation to attend. Thank you to the Print and Electronic Media for your kind and generous promotions that are fundamental to energising and empowering the democratic process.
4. Special and appreciative mention must be made of Mr. Claudius Dacon, CEO and Councillor Shama Deonarine of the Colonial Life Insurance Co. Ltd (CLICO) for agreeing generously to sponsor this event at very short notice. The refreshments are with their compliments. They will also publish the text of the Lecture for free circulation and defray all the expenses in connection with this event.
5. I endorse and support CLICO's media published slogan and corporate commitment to the effect that:
Diversity is the Key to Life. You can now appreciate the link between this Lecture and CLICO. Their mission statement of People Centred and Future Driven also is consistent with the underpinnings of the multicultural imperative as well as the thrust of the presentation.
6. I wish to congratulate and thank The National Council for Indian Culture and the Borough Corporation of Chaguanas for taking the initiative in organising this Lecture/Discussion for three reasons:
"For inviting me to deliver this discussion paper in which I will present arguments that may initiate a process that could lead to, hopefully, the adoption by T&T of an official policy on Multiculturalism and inclusion in the proposed amended Republican Constitution. We all look forward to the eventual establishment of a requisite Ministry of Multiculturalism and ancillary institutions. The concept of multiculturalism or managed diversity that Clico calls the Key to Life I consider as a way forward (what CLICO calls future driven) to generating ideas for managing and harnessing the rich human resource/capital and endowment of our ethno-cultural diversity. This management must take place in the interest of promoting the common good and greater integration of an equality-based cosmopolitan society. To some proportional representation adopted at the political/ constitutional level in, for example in Guyana, may constitute the political response/ way forward to realising and mobilising the full participation of all communities in the governance of T&T. On the other hand a regime/ official policy on multiculturalism may be considered as the official cultural policy response to managing and exploiting ethno-cultural diversity in Trinidad and Tobago. This may assist in promoting the integration of the community of communities that is Trinidad and Tobago.
"At this critical stage in our road to Nationhood we may need to pause, determine and assess whether the current disruptive unofficial policy of ethno- nationalism has any place at all in a multicultural society such as Trinidad and Tobago.
"Secondly, this lecture also constitutes a direct response to the appeal made by His Excellency The President Professor George Maxwell Richards in his address to Parliament on September 10 where His Excellency highlighted the need to adopt policies, programmes and priorities to manage our ethno-cultural diversity and/or our prevailing T&T racio-cultural ethos.
"It also follows the harmony initiative launched last week at the Hilton by a Group of Eminent Citizens entitled, The Eight Principles of Fairness: A New Beginning geared to achieve stability and equity in T&T. We laud their harmony initiative. However implementation and enforcement of fundamental human rights and freedoms, equality in diversity must be the focus after 42 years of rhetoric and nice sounding, cosmetic invocations of and pandering to our ethnic diversity. The days for posting signs on walls and notice boards similar to Mission Statements are now over;
"And thirdly, to, inter alia, the NCIC, Mr. Satnarayan Maharaj and Mayor Rambachan for initiating the national dialogue on multiculturalism in the Press. They are now taking this critical issue to you the people to concretise and mobilise public opinions. Hence the Draft Resolution that is being circulated amongst you tonight. These are all designed to assist and influence the strategic national policy formulation and determination processes (the democratic process) as they are evolving at present (constitutional reform). They will impact on and shape the future configuration of cosmopolitan Trinbago ( The New Constitution);
Conventional Wisdom and Competing Visions of the Way Forward
7. In conceptualising the way forward (visioneering) at present in multicultural and multiethnic T&T we are faced with, inter alia, several visions and versions of a configuration of the T&T we want to see materialise. Firstly, there is the politically motivated Vision 2020 economic development model that is premised on T&T attaining developed country status by the year 2020. This can be deemed the quantitative model or nationalist approach even though fundamental changes in human behaviour/national psyche is anticipated but without the requisite strategies to achieve these new personality traits.
8. The following are the main human resource development planks of the strategic Draft Vision 2020 that some may see as utopic and pie in the sky in its aspirations:
"Trinidad and Tobago will be a united, resilient, productive, innovative and prosperous nation;
With a disciplined, caring, fun-loving society; Comprising healthy, happy and well-educated people and
Built on the enduring attributes of self-reliance, respect, tolerance, equity and integrity"
The Multicultural Imperative
9. On the other hand there is the vision that both the NCIC and The Mayor of Chaguanas has articulated. In this vision the way forward for T&T is to be determined having regard to the multiethnic and multi-religious configuration of Trinbago. This can be termed the qualitative or the focus on the human development model or the approach emphasizing the human capital, integrationist aspect of the development model. It is people- centred. It supports that diversity is the key and fundamental to life in Trinidad and Tobago.
10. There is a small area of overlap or convergence between the two models when the former 2020 Vision proposes that:
"The diversity and creativity of all its people are valued and nurtured"
How, where and by what means we are not told. But it is consistent with the empty, grandiose aspirations of the past.
11. But this commitment to diversity management would appear to be marginal to and last in the hierarchy of the Vision 2020 Statement. There is no meaningful action plan/program/strategies geared to promote the realisation of this objective. We also have the outlines of an ethno-cultural Vision of T&T as put forward by The Gordon Group of Eminent Citizens in which eight Principles of Fairness have been identified that are intended to shape and re-constitute the socio-cultural landscape (Please see Appendix II).
11a. There is also a vision for promoting harmonious ethnic relations conceptualised by the National Self-Discovery Committee appointed by the President that is both socio-diagnostic and prescriptive in its orientation (Newsday 13 August 2003, p 13). This Committee as well as the Prime Minister's Race Relations Committee (Newsday 16 August p 8)) was ignored or bypassed by the Gordon/Lok Jack/ Hosein/Tewarie Committee that was supported by 28 NGO's.
12. The Vision that NCIC may have is that of T&T being declared officially a multicultural, equality-based nation-state exhibiting the practices and statal attributes as encapsulated and identified in paragraph 35 that we will discuss shortly.
The Cross Cultural Navigation Ethic In the Koran
13. I take my inspiration from Chapter 49, Verse 13 of the Holy Koran. This theme is timely, instructive and appropriate to multiethnic T&T poised as it is at the beginning of the New Millenium and on the threshold of the 21st Century. This theme evokes radically new thinking in configuring the way forward in the face of the current new conjuncture of economic, demographic, egalitarian, globalisation and social driving forces that is impacting on the Trinidad and Tobago personality.
14. The quotation takes on board and treats with the need to address fundamental qualitative aspects of human development/relations of T&T. Conventional wisdom is focussing exclusively on meeting targeted quantitative or economic criteria on the way to achieving developed country status by 2020. This 2020 Vision Statement fails to incorporate the intricate and complex web of relationships and beliefs, values and motivations that lie in the heart of our multicultural T&T. Those relationships can and will play a pivotal role in configuring our common and sustainable future. We need to focus also on the qualitative aspects of human development (living fulfilling lives). The Multiculturalism Paradigm is in fact the alternative to Vision 2020 from a socio-cultural perspective. It is also advancing The Gordon's Eight Principles of Fairness beyond the invocation stage to the effective implementation and enforcement stage. This is the vision that we want to concentrate on tonight.
The Holy Prophet Mohammed as a Multiculturalist
15. Mr. Chairman, my brothers and sisters, the Holy Prophet Mohammed (UWBP) espoused clearly and unambiguously the doctrine of democratic and interactive multiculturalism as an official policy response to effectively manage and harness diversity- to promote harmonious interpersonal and inter-faith relations (the brotherhood of man).
Knowing One Another
16. What is this injunction that the Holy Prophet Mohammed (UWBP) delivered to Mankind?
"O Mankind! Verily we have created you male and female and have made you Nations and Tribes that you may know one another."
Diversity is God- Created
17. It is clear, that:
"God created and sanctified ethno-cultural differences (diversity) as a fundamental aspect of mankind as well as in every other aspect of creation. The talk about recognising only the human race is crooked cosmetic posturing. Diversity is the essence of His creation and as the CLICO promotion admonishes: Diversity is Life. In fact every individual (male and female) is a unique creature of God of human diversity.
"He also created and divided the world into Nations (political/legal entities) and Tribes (socio-religious entities or races or community of citizens).
"He did not intend us to live barricaded and insulated in silos or enclaves or Muslim Villages as is being proposed by my brother Maulana Imran Hosein. He advocates interdependence- not existentialism.
18. The Honourable Prime Minister Manning in his address delivered to the Emancipation Celebrations this year noted :
"In T&T we celebrate all of God's human creations and give Him thanks and praises for our human diversity…"
Diversity is High Grade Human Capital
19. Diversity must be recognised as a high-grade, social strategic capital/ resource whose exploitation is critical to the successful emergence of T&T as a world class knowledge-based society and competitively viable global economy. Diversity is not only cultural but more importantly it possesses enormous economic potential and significance. As Senator Anmolsingh-Mahabir indicated it makes good economic sense in a globalised trading and competitive environment.
20. In multicultural T&T successive nationalist governments driven by their discomfort with and disrespect for cosmopolitanism have not catered for diversity and differences since Independence (nationalism rampant) unlike in other progressive societies. We still live in a neo-colonialist model of economic/social structures with a center-periphery (urban-rural dichotomy or divide at the infrastructural level) paradigm of relationships. Nationalists have perpetuated the assimilation myths that: all ah we is one. Our Chairman Ambassador Dumas has labeled these as "frothy placebos"in his outstanding address delivered at the UWI International Seminar. We also have the misleading statement that: We came by the same ship. The Caribbean Man represents a genre of non-existent Afro-Caribbean homogeneity and culture that may be unnecessarily exclusionary of large segments of the populations of T&T, Guyana and Jamaica. The future of multiethnic and multi-religious T&T must be premised on a new political and social culture (the official policy of multiculturalism) underpinned and characterised by respect for differences (diversity) and a commitment and institutions to promoting real equality in diversity (EID).
T&T as a Community of Communities - Unity in Diversity
21. The Koranic injunction is that having regard to the richness of our respective racio-cultural differences and values we, that is citizens and communities are enjoined to reach out and know and begin to appreciate one another. The State must institutionally and legally cater for, respect and celebrate the richness of our cultural differences. That is to say that we must conduct mutually beneficial exchanges, interface, cross-cultural navigation, cross cultural fertilisation and peaceful co-existence. There could accordingly result a process of cross fertilisation (voluntary and spontaneous mixing of the elements) through the frontier theory (zone of intercourse) or cultural interaction (the cultural pluralism model) rather than the exclusive boundary (separatist model) approach to tribalism/culture in T&T's cosmopolitan society.
Reconciling Integration, Shared Identity and Cultural Pluralism
22. No man/tribe must, can or should regard himself/itself as an island unto itself within the islands in T&T. Every citizen is part of the archipelagic state of T&T. You can be proud of being a Trinbagonian and proud of your indelible ethno- cultural ancestry at the same time. You can be an African and Indian (our endogenous acculturated baggage) and still be a loyal, patriotic Trinbagonian because "Africanness"and "Indianness"( culturally speaking) make up the dominant endogenous elements of our cosmopolitan T&T mosaic or multiculturalism of T&T. There are neither contradictions nor conflict in this duality or split or hybrid personality as some ethno-nationalists (ethnocentricists) would have us believe.
23. The following statement made by Canon Clive Griffith in the Sunday Guardian (1 August, p. 7) puts it very succinctly on Minister's Valley's assertion that he was not African and an emancipated New World personality:
"Yes, but that response can only come from ignorance, and he needs to understand that there is a difference between your ethnicity and your nationalism (nationality). Being a Trinidadian is not to be taken the same as being as being an African, because when you say you are African what you are saying is that you are a Trinidadian-born with African traits, African culture, a heritage which is vital and which is very rich."
24. Man, the citizen of T&T also belongs to jamaats, panchayaats, communities, mandirs, dioceses, presbyteries etc. He/ She is a communal animal (communities of citizens). But T&T is also a community of communities and held together by the tenets of Unity in Diversity. That is the real sociology of cosmopolitan Trinbago. We have to avoid using political/geographic criteria to make non sequitur deductions/statements of a racio-cultural nature when we use the concepts of Indian and African in our discussions. We must demonstrate sophistication and sagacity in our dialogue consistent with our literacy standards and our aspiration to a developed status and avoid the Valley line.
25. Accordingly no tribal, political nor cultural collectivity must feel it has a divine, God-given right to pursue any clandestine or open hegemonic agenda driven by supremacist aspirations/tendencies to progressively and surreptitiously destroy and/or marginalise the cultural identity/values and moral systems of ethno-cultural groupings and tribes that make up our mosaic, rainbow country- our cosmopolitanism.
26. One manifestation of this tendency was shown when it was said that T&T was not yet ready for an Indian Prime Minister in 1981, 1986 and 1995. Another version is to suggest a false compensation theory that Indians possess economic power and therefore Africans must be allowed political dominance. We also had the Headline:"The Indianisation of the Government"and "Chutney Rising"that were intended to raise the alarm bells by suggesting that Indians were encroaching on forbidden political territory.
27. The various strands of our culture and shared identity (cultural and political) must be respected, tolerated and appreciated. But this diversity must be sustained, supported and circumscribed by our common good and values geared to facilitate the survival/ welfare of the nation-state of T&T. This is what is meant by the concept of a community of communities or Unity in Diversity. Unity must be forged without being compelled to abdicate your ethno-cultural diversity. Loyalty to T&T is the overriding, over-arching concern- the man-land connection/nexus and imperative. There therefore can be no conflict between being an Indian culturally (ancestral memory) and a Trinbagonian by nationality, culture, birth or citizenry. We have to factor into the dialogue the overriding force of the territorial imperative that binds man to T&T, the land of his birth, irrevocably. Even animals do.
28. We must jettison this nonsense about anyone of us having political loyalty to Mother India or Africa (not a political entity) and being lesser Trinbagonians or harbouring loyalty to a foreign entity. What will be our position relative to the T&T diasporic communities resident abroad vis-vis their emotional nexus with T&T? Were Caribbean immigrants naturalised in Britain/Canada/USA pressured into giving up their cultural and other linkages to the Caribbean? The British and Canadians fund and support steel-band, calypso and multicultural education with an Afro-Caribbean focus as a result of the demands for a programme and policy on multiculturalism made by early Afro-Caribbean communities. New York Education Bodies came to T&T recently to recruit teachers to teach the children of West Indian immigrants in recognition of their persistent cultural ties with the Caribbean.
29. Why are our immigration patterns North American oriented and not focussed on India and Africa? This is convincing evidence that we have no aspirations to return to the lands of our ancestral civilisation- neither political nor even cultural loyalties to the lands of our ancestry. There is therefore no contradiction between being Trinbagonian of African/Indian ancestry and civilisation. That is a statement of immutable fact.
30. That is the dictat of the Holy Prophet Mohammed in the above-mentioned Koranic ayat/quotation. No tribe is to be indoctrinated or deceived into giving up its cultural or religious identity or heritage ( policy of assimilation) or accused of being unpatriotic to Dharti Mai Trinidad and Tobago because of its adherence to cultural persistence. Those, like Trevor McDonald and Trevor Phillips who wish to voluntarily surrender their distinctive or cosmetic Afro-Caribbean cultural characteristics, their religion, their dharma/karma and their heritage in search of an elusive British identity are free to do so and become assimilated into mainstream culture (the assimilation "Britishness"model) through a process of osmosis or choice. This ability to effect cultural abdication however is more apparent than real.
31. The Holy Prophet in his injunction also advocates that multiculturalism must be alive in the classroom (multicultural education or what Mr. Michael Kallon attached to the UWI School of Education calls "inclusive schooling") so that we can get to know one another from the start and not harbour or to cause prejudices and stereotyping tendencies to fester from young. It is too late to be eradicated in adulthood when it has already penetrated our marrow. The curriculum must be revamped to cater for social, economic and class differences and to get to know one another.
32. Let me refer to the appeal made by His Excellency The President Professor George Maxwell Richards in his 2004 Republic Day Message to the effect that"… children could be taught… a healthy respect for the human rights of every person and an appreciation of the blessing of the many cultural streams that converge and enrich our heritage and possibilities "(Newsday 24 September, p.8).
33. Prior to this our distinguished Chairman Mr. Dumas during his clinically accurate address delivered at the UWI International Seminar held in June 2003 had said:
"…the proper teaching of our history and cultures must begin at the primary level, which means radical curriculum and textbook reform…. Curriculum reform must also pay strict attention to education in religious and family life education, and in race relations…"(Proceedings of the International Seminar, 2-3 June 2003, p.122)
34. The multicultural organisation is culturally diverse throughout. It tolerates diversity. It values it. It uses pluralism in the acculturation process that emphasizes two-way learning, adaptation, interdependence and mutual appreciation/exchanges to achieve cross- cultural transformation and understanding.
The Multiculturalism-Determined Vision of Trinidad and Tobago
35. The following statement/scenario, to which I referred earlier, may be considered as descriptive of the kind of multiethnic and multicultural T&T society that we should aspire towards. It points to the way forward that we in T&T as a Community of Communities should not only collectively aspire towards but we must cause to be established the requisite institutional/legal mechanisms including policies, programmes and priorities to promote equity (The Eight Principles of Fairness), social and distributive justice and a true sense of belonging (the inclusionist/integrationist model). Without intending to detract from the hard work of the 28 NGO's, a Statement of Principles of Fairness is only the beginning of the jihad for achieving an equity-based and stable, just society. Harmony without justice and fairness is a façade. We have had these Principles of Fairness with us since 1962. We sing everyday about every creed and race having an equal place. Some have it more equal than others.
"To create a society in which all its citizens and communities (including regions) feel valued- in which they enjoy equal opportunities to develop their respective talents- lead fulfilling lives ( e.g. being a good Hindu/Moslem), and accept their fair share of collective responsibility- a society where the spirit of civic friendship, shared identity and common sense of belonging to Dharti Mai T&T go hand in hand with the love of diversity".(Multiethnic Britain)
Our Common Multicultural and Multiethnic Future
36. This Session tonight can play its part in helping to create an environment in which each of the threads that hold our multicultural social fabric together enjoys a fair chance. That it can develop the capacity to constantly influence the shaping of the identity/culture of T&T at the level of the individual citizen, the community and at the national level by articulating a strategic vision to shape and determine our common future based on human development targets.
37. T&T is not a single, mono-culture, tribe, ethnic grouping, religion or region. It is political, unitary and archipelagic space with two large but 21 other islands. The two large ones are in themselves culturally diverse and distinct. It is a diverse cosmopolitan society because not even the imperialistic powers succeeded in establishing a monolithic Anglo-American-based society out of the disparate elements of our cherished diversity. Sometimes I conclude that from the priority and precedence being accorded (Urban renewal) that POS and the East-West Corridor (County St. George) get an unfair share of the national cake.
Many threads that Sustain our Cultural Fabric
38. T&T they say is a rainbow country- a multicultural mosaic- a social fabric consisting of several threads or yarns in which no one thread must exercise cultural hegemony, dominance and supremacy to the detriment or marginalisation of other legitimate groups or tribes. The way forward must be based on empowering and equipping all to make their full contribution to creating a fair, inclusive, socially cohesive and prosperous society while still adhering if they chose, to their distinctive cultural, linguistic (Bhojpuri, Urdu, Patois, Sewahali, cocoa payol Spanish, pidgin English) and socio-religious (bhagwat, maulood, etc) practices.
Equality in Diversity (EID)
39. This therefore introduces the concept of equality in diversity (EID) as an extension to the concept of Unity in Diversity. There is a need to embed a culture of equality and human rights as core values in T&T- the mainstreaming of these values. While certain fundamental human rights from the Canadian Bill of Human Rights are included in the 1976 Constitution there are no institutional arrangements in place except the High Courts. This litigation process is limited to public sector organisations and private organisations in receipt of state funds. The rest can discriminate with impunity. Unity in Diversity is an elusive, emotional, subjective term not subject to measurement or regulations. Unity like beauty sometimes lies in the eyes of the beholder. Unity has degenerated in T&T as a concept/strategy of political convenience to suppress creative and strategic thinking depending on which side of the Speaker's Chair you are sitting. Unity in Diversity as a concept is really similar to the multicultural concept of T&T being a Community of Communities having "common hopes and aspirations"as referred to in the Eight Principles of Fairness.
40. The National Motto-"Together we Aspire, Together we Achieve"(Community of Communities) is qualified by the words of the National Anthem that-
Here ever creed and race find an equal place (Community of Citizens).
When the Gordon Committee speaks of "common hopes and aspirations"it is really referring to the Community of Communities concept. But there are also other multiculturally different hopes and aspirations incubated at the community of citizens level. For example one can be an exemplary, devoted Hindu, Moslem, Christian or engaged in pursuing the hopes and aspirations of the rural fringe, the rural marginalised and the rural dispossessed. I say this because there is a correlation between geography and ethnicity in Trinidad but not in Tobago that has a more homogeneous population.
41. The National Motto does not imply or expect or remotely suggest that we abandon our respective distinctive cultural identities/practices. It does not expect us to be assimilated and absorbed into a non-existent homogeneous cultural mainstream. This is the essence of nationalism. Multiculturalism is based on the paradigm of cultural co-existence, interaction, mutual exchanges, respect for diversity and understanding all connected and underpinned by our loyalty and patriotism to Dharti Mai T&T (The overarching Concept of a Community of Communities or Unity in Diversity at the macro-level). May I suggest that the 8 Principles of Fairness enunciated by the Gordon Group without the requisite implementation mechanisms are no different from the false hopes and expectations generated about fairness and inclusion by the late Dr.Williams in 1962 because neither institutional nor legal mechanisms to promote equality and human rights have been established to date. The Equal Opportunities Act has been declared unconstitutional and there is an overt unwillingness to make it operative as a check and balance against every form of discrimination in both the private and public sectors. The Gordon Group will need to clarify its position on the role of the Equal Opportunities Act in enforcing and guaranteeing individual rights and freedoms.
The Ravages of the Policy of Nationalism
42. After 42 years of an ethno-Nationalism-based Independence and three distinct Nationalist-leaning regimes what is the prevailing status quo on cross- cultural relations/diversity that impels us to want to chart a new way forward instead of continuing along the hitherto ethno-nationalism-paved track? These are some:
"a racially polarised T&T where geography correlates with ethnicity and a centre-periphery based neo-colonialist relationship;
"the only multicultural society in the world in which a largest minority feels discriminated against by the public sector and the state;
"we have not considered and agreed in a dispassionate organised forum on the elements that constitute the T&T identity. This composite identity must recognise and reflect the diversity of our cultures to strengthen a sense of belonging, identity, pride and patriotism (Unity in Diversity);
"we have not been able to distinguish between and understand the political and legal aspects of the T&T personality (Indian and African) on the one hand; and our cultural and religious heritage as Indians and Africans ( endogenous variable or cultural persistence);
"we do not have a National Cultural Policy nor A National (Multicultural) Commission on Culture (the culinary, plastic, literary, creative and performing arts);
"We are reaping the fruits/whirlwind of a policy of ethno-nationalism indiscriminately imported post-independence from the another Caribbean country (Jamaica) and is doing its own damage in developing pools of alienation/marginalisation in T&T or what His Excellency The President calls "fissures".
"a Vision 2020 futuristic developmental agenda that ignores and pays lip service to the question of diversity and its contribution to organisational effectiveness, organisational behaviour and development, social cohesiveness and achieving competitiveness/ efficiency both internally and on the expanding globalised market place;
"we perpetuate an Anglo-American emphasis (the melting pot thesis) in our social landscape at the level of religion, culture, education (the national Curriculum), politics and nutrition and diet and even in public housing;
"we have established three cosmetic race relations Committees and a fourth if you add the Gordon Committee, with neither Secretariat, nor supporting administrative, research and field staff, nor terms of reference nor national policy underpinnings (White Paper on Managing Diversity). Not one black cent is made available to fund or achieve anything of substance or value (critical policy-related research on race and diversity issues, visits to other multicultural societies etc) that can be factored into the multicultural policy determination process. These Committees have excited public expectations that they will not and cannot fulfill and they are clearly indicative of the cosmetic, superficial value that we place on the development of mutual respect and cross-cultural understanding;
"The Gordon Committee completely ignored the relevance of these three Committees and excluded them from its consultations. The Vision 2020 Culture and Ethnicity Sub-Committee may constitute another layer of bloated bureaucracy and the fourth in the stratified bureaucracy. This sub-Committee of the Vision 2020 also ignored the three other Committees during its public consultations held with stakeholders on 16 October at the Crowne Plaza and did not even address ethnic relations nor cultural co-existence;
"Charges/ judgments on subjective decision making in the State sector, inequality, marginalisation, rural decay, urban tyranny and monopoly, cultural discrimination tarnish the social landscape. There are over 100 public sector litigation awaiting determination in the High Court and private groups would appear to be free to discriminate in violation of UN/OAS Conventions on Human Rights and Racial Discrimination to which T&T is a party;
"No institutional arrangement and/or legislative action (Bill of Human Rights and Freedoms) has been undertaken or established to promote equality, cultural heterogeneity, fairness for all, meritocracy in the public sector work place except some provisions of the Constitution that are dependent on invoking expensive and prohibitive constitutional litigation procedures. Senator Wade Mark: "If you do not have money to take this Government to Court-yuh coo coo cook"). This is supported by CJ Mr. Justice Sharma in his 2004 Law Term Opening Address.
"A de-monopolised mushrooming print and electronic media (19 radio, 3 TV and 13 more to come for 1.3 million people) and telecommunications infrastructure that facilitate the widespread articulation of real and perceived acts of discrimination and lack of transparency and accountability in public affairs (radio talk shows). Discussions of cross-cultural relations/ justifiable claims articulated by the marginalised and rural fringe raise racial alarm bells and the status quo is considered sacrosanct and immutable;
"Several recent litigation determined in the High Courts, including the Gordon Committee have clearly established the widespread practice of flawed administrative decision-making based on ethnicity intended to thwart upward mobility and promotion in the Public and Foreign Service of T&T;
"Senator Wade Mark in the Senate: "… So merely because of where you live this society discriminates against you… when we talk of discrimination it does not necessarily mean…racial discrimination…We are talking about discrimination based on region…"(Geographic Discrimination)
The Multicultural Imperative as a Model For Managing Ethno- Cultural Diversity in the Way Forward in Multiethnic and Multicultural T&T
43. It is against the aforementioned imbalanced ethno-social backdrop of T&T today that I am proposing to put forward for dispassionate discussion the need to adopt and implement a regime of democratic, interactive multiculturalism. This model of racio-cultural reform to be included as a Constitutional provision is geared to rescue the national community from the ravages of a militant, covert and irrelevant ethno-nationalism or what is called a policy of cultural assimilation or ethnocentricity.
44.Multiculturalism 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".(Inglis)
45. PM Owen Arthur of Barbados describes the corrosive, alienating effects of the lethal amalgam of a Westminster constitutionalised dictatorship system of governance and the ideology of ethno-nationalism at the political level as:
"… the Westminster model of governance… that has encouraged ' to the victors the spoils' mentality that has ensured that at any time almost half of the population of any Caribbean society is marginalised and alienated from participation in the development of the society."
46. I wrote two Letters to the Editor (Newsday Tuesday June 22, p.11; Newsday Sept. 19, p 15) calling on Government to issue a White Paper on Managing Our Diversity and listing all the individuals and organisations that support an official policy/programme and priority on multiculturalism. It would appear reasonable to expect a response from the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs even if it is to put together a think tank to brainstorm the subject. The President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in his Statement at the Opening of Parliament on Friday 10 September just joined this list. So has local activist Councillor Paras Ramoutar in articles published in the local media as well as Professors Dr. Brinsley Samaroo and Dr. John La Guerre. I am delighted to see so many of you multiculturalists in the audience tonight. Thank you for your moral support.
47. This is what Pierre Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada said of Nationalism in the context of introducing a policy of multiculturalism in Canada:
"It is possible that Nationalism may still have a role to play in backward societies where the status quo is upheld by irrational and brutal forces. But in advanced societies nationalism wil have to be discarded as a rustic and clumsy tool".
48. The proposed legal regime/programme of multiculturalism of which I speak is not new. Equality in Diversity (EID) that is fundamental to the regime has been recognised at the political level since the birth of the Nation-State (The National Anthem). It languished because of the lack of the political will to establish the requisite administrative, institutional and legal arrangements and relevant programmes, priorities and procedures to enforce equality. Or perhaps the nationalism-prone political architects were merely politicking or involved in political rhetoric in true deceptive T&T-style. They were not prepared to walk the talk. In other countries politics is the art of compromise and the possible in the people's interest. In T&T politics it may have degenerated into the art of deception. This deception is controlled and fueled by a huge, expensive increasing cadre of communication specialists who abound in each Ministry.
49. This is what Senator Wade Mark said in his motion in the Senate on the Equal Opportunities Act on Tuesday 27 April 2004 that is a pivotal legislative component of a regime of multiculturalism:
"We had recognised then and long before that there was a mechanism required for citizens of this country who felt that they had a grievance or felt that they were being discriminated against, particularly in the light of the plurality of our society and, there fore there was a need for such a mechanism and institution."
50. Multiculturalism provides for equal opportunities, for remedies against human rights violations in the work place, for multicultural education in the classroom and for the inalienable rights of minorities and majorities to be respected. Less than 10% of UN Membership are ethnically homogeneous societies and in one-third no one group exceeds 50% of the population. Such is the global incidence of ethno-cultural diversity. It is increasing because of the dismantling of immigration controls, the upsurge in integration movements, common markets and the South-North brain drain.
51. What have been the hurdles to the implementation of a policy on multiculturalism (EID) and by extension the underpinnings that support a policy of ethno-nationalism?
"Racial Discrimination and Stereotyping
"A racially- oriented moral and politically configured and bi-polarised culture
"Lack of a convincing and adequate philosophy of Government
"Lack of relevant structures
"Lack of the Political Will, the need to Change of Mindset, electoral exploitation of ethnicity;
"the need to disabuse from our minds that any one ethno-cultural group has a divine right to rule T&T; and has a monopoly and/or permanent ownership/jurisdiction and control of the resources and opportunities provided by the State
"Radical shift in the way in which a T&T identity/culture has been defined and shaped by the media, commentators etc and Government's policies, practices and programmes;
"Equality must be conceived in a culturally sensitive manner and applied in a discriminating but not discriminatory manner in multi-faith Trinidad and Tobago.
"An out-of -date and irrelevant National Curriculum that is ethno-nationalistic-based, a relic of colonialism and that is insensitive and indifferent to the multicultural configuration/aspirations of T&T.
Officially Declared Multicultural Societies
52. Official policies on multiculturalism have been adopted in UK, Australia, Canada (1988), Sweden (1975) and Estonia to cater for the rights of ethnic minorities. In T&T it is being supported so as to provide for the exercise of the legitimate rights and cultural aspirations of all groupings in the society including the largest single community. At present the UK is strengthening its policy framework on diversity and including a human rights component in its proposed Commission on Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) using a broad, meaningful consultative process involving all the stakeholders and making resources available to fund the process.
Three Origins of Cultural Diversity/ Multiculturalism Initiatives
53. Progressive societies have adhered to the tenets of multiculturalism many of which I have mentioned above. It is motivated firstly by a sense of social justice based on moral, ethical and social responsibilities to improve the conditions of racio-ethnic and gender minorities. It is a formula/regime for national integration, cultural enrichment and the reduction/elimination of prejudices and discrimination.
54. Secondly legal obligations imposed by affirmative action/ (also UN/OAS/Human Rights Treaties) programmes and employment equity legislation in multicultural societies require schools/employers to eliminate racial and gender discrimination both in education and employment.
55. Thirdly, a diverse work force increases levels of competitiveness in the global market place by increasing performance and profitability. For example a diverse Foreign Service of T&T has an increased understanding of the political, social, legal, economic and cultural environment of foreign countries including important competitors amongst OPEC energy-producing countries. Hence the need to diversify intakes into the critical area of our national front/image abroad to reflect faithfully the ethno-diversity at home.
56. In T&T the tenets of multiculturalism must be incorporated meaningfully in the Constitutional Reform Process, The Vision 2020 Initiative and Reform of the Education and Electoral (PR) Systems.
Case Study of Canadian Policy on Multiculturalism
57. The Government of Canada adopted a Canadian Multiculturalism Act 1988. It also appointed a Minister responsible for Multiculturalism. T&T born Dr. Heidy Fry held this position in the 90's. At present the Multiculturalism portfolio is held by a Grenadian-born MP, Ms Jean Augustine with whom I worked well during my Canadian diplomatic assignment in Ottawa from 1996-2000.
58. The following are some of the policy commitments enunciated in the Act:
"Ensure that all Canadians enjoy equal opportunity
"Promote policies, programs and practices that enhance individuals to contribute to development of Canada;
"Promote policies, programs and practices that enhance the understanding of and respect for diversity
"Generally carry on activities in a manner that is sensitive to the multicultural reality of Canada.
59. Canada's approach to multiculturalism concentrates on four principal areas:
"Combating racism and discrimination-encouraging citizens to be involved in finding positive ways to stop racial discrimination.
"Making Canadian institutions more reflective of Canadian diversity- ensuring the Government of Canada represents the country's diverse population.
"Promoting shared citizenship- making sure all Canadians feel part of Canada and can take part in the country's economic, cultural and social life.
"Cross-cultural understanding- making sure differences are understood in urban and rural communities.
60. In conclusion I wish recommend the establishment of an Integration/Multiculturalism Commission/Advisory Board with teeth, Secretariat, its own budget and staff. We must embark on widespread consultations on the way forward in a multicultural and multiethnic society such as Trinidad and Tobago.
61. As a part of the above institution we must put into place a well-funded and equipped High Level Committee to undertake the level of investigative and facilitative work necessary to improve cross- cultural relations.
62. Real and genuine efforts must be taken to factor the tenets of multiculturalism into the conceptualisation processes of the Vision 2020 since the achievement of real unity in diversity is a prerequisite for taking forward Trinidad and Tobago. Failure to do so will result in the preservation of the policy of rampant, divisive ethno-nationalism.
Government must issue a White Paper on Managing Diversity.
63. Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen for your attention, patience and your attendance.
64. The Draft Resolution attached at Appendix I will remain on the screen for your consideration. It contains a range of recommendations and certain pre-ambular considerations and back-drop against for the recommendations.
65. If time does not permit we will consider the Draft Resolution at a Resumed Session.
Send page by E-Mail