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Rationalising Our Ancestral Connections
Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2005

By Stephen Kangal

Dr. Bhoe Tewarie, UWI Principal must appreciate and recognise rather urgently that his recent controversial public utterances automatically carry the stamp of approval, academic weight/ scholarship and validation of his St.Augustine Campus. Accordingly may I appeal to The Principal to exercise greater judgement and discretion when speaking publicly even as an architect of the Principles of Fairness. His public statements can have unnecessary negative demonstration effects on the young and impressionable.

I attended the 7 September CRF Meeting held to treat with constitutional reform held at NALIS. I listened in complete astonishment while Dr. Tewarie expressed his discomfort and dilemma with his Indian diasporic connections. I deliberately refrained from writing in protest. But having read Kevin Baldeosingh's accurate report (Newsday 13 September, p. 7) I am convinced that I cannot now be accused again of having misread or "drawn the wrong conclusions".

It is an essential task for us in T&T to chart the way forward by placing our African but more so our more concentrated and intense Indian ancestral cultural roots and connections in their proper perspective. In our quest to forge a nation based on unity in diversity we must identify and define the several racio-cultural elements that impact upon our ethno-cultural psyche and determine our national identity. Last year when Minister Kenneth Valley disavowed any African connections (Newsday 3 Aug./04, p. 11), Pastor Clive Griffith explained to us very cogently, logically and convincingly that our ancestral cultural connections or memory do not compromise our loyalty and patriotism to Dharti Mata T&T. Therefore Dr. Tewarie can proceed to build his T&T in the full knowledge that his inalienable and persistent Indian diasporic ancestral links do not stand in his way not hinder him. There was no need to feel discomfort in either Pravasi India or at the NJAC dinner if only to appear to be politically correct and unecessarily patriotic to T&T.

Sometime ago I personally witnessed Dr. Tewarie don his kurta and dhoti pundit-style to read publicly the Ramcharitarmanas (ramayan) of Sant Tulsidas at Raviji's Kala Kendra ashram in Longdenville. Was not this a noble and proud private expression of his ancestral memory in a predominantly Indian environment in which he did not appear to be uncomfortable? Does his Indian diasporic memory inhibit his loyalty and patriotism to T&T? The Indian diasporic connection with 42% of the people of T&T is underpinned by our strong and abiding cultural nexus with our ancestral ancient Indian civilisation of which the reading of the Ramayan is a prime manifestation. This link is neither political, economic nor nationality-based or determined.

I told Dr. Tewarie at the CRF Meeting that there was no inherent conflict endemic in his Indo-T&T personality and his diasporic connections. That at the political and economic levels the spirit of nationalism prevails in T&T. But that at the cultural level we are a multicultural society. Even India is a multicultural secular society unlike Pakistan that is officially Islamic.

So that in his noble desire to build T&T, Dr. Tewarie can proceed without any let or hindrance and not introduce or imagine non-existent and artificial cultural constraints. Our African and Indian ancestral memories do not and cannot inhibit nor compromise our patriotism to multicultural T&T nor our T&T identity and nationality.

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