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 Affirmative action arrival

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PostSubject: Affirmative action arrival   Affirmative action arrival I_icon_minitimeTue Mar 25, 2014 5:23 pm

Affirmative action arrival
Parsuram Maharaj : An Executive Member of the Sana Tuesday, May 13 2003

Indian Heritage Month began with a series of events and activities to celebrate the arrival and contribution of Indians to Trinidad & Tobago and these activities will culminate with Indian Arrival Day. Ironically the Indo-Trinidad community is now faced with a form of state sponsored racism perhaps never before seen. The government of Trinidad & Tobago has essentially employed an affirmative action policy, which Indians are virtually omitted from the national patrimony. It appears now instead that there is a celebrating of affirmative action arrival in Trinidad & Tobago.

Affirmative action programmes are fraught with intrinsic flaws that work against harmony in a plural society. Affirmative action is supposed to be a programme designed to end racism, but it really justifies racism by its own actions. Its policies totally judge people solely on ethnicity. That is discrimination in itself. Is discrimination the solution to resolving past discrimination? This cannot be a desired government programme if there is a form of discrimination involved. David Sacks and Peter Thiel “The case against affirmative action” argued that “The basic problem is that a racist past cannot be undone through more racism.” Similarly titled “The case against affirmative action” Louis P Pojman goes further postulating that “strong affirmative action creates a new hierarchy of the oppressed.” Therefore in Trinidad, Afro-Trinidadians get primary preferential treatment, then the Syrians, Chinese, Mixed and Indians no matter how needy or well qualified, must accept the leftovers. The current policy of virtual ethnic exclusion should come as no surprise as on Friday 20 September 2002 Prime Minister Patrick Manning stated at a Point Fortin political meeting that his one political regret is not looking after PNM supporters previously, but next time he does not intend to make the same mistake. This declaration is not without ethnic implications as the majority of PNM supporters are non-Indians.

Clearly the implication is that Indians are not to be treated equally under the PNM. At a subsequent political meeting at the St Augustine Hi Lo car-park Prime Minister Manning asserted that the $400 million for CEPEP is needed to improve race relations as will allow those who have “historically” not been entrepreneurs the ability to develop into entrepreneurs. No mention was made of solving imbalances that affect the Indo-Trinidadian community. These statements from the Prime Minister married with utterances from businessman Arthur Lok Jack, chairman of the government’s multi-sectoral group responsible for formulating a Strategic Development Plan for Trinidad and Tobago to achieve Developed Country Status by 2020, continues to paint a black picture for Indo-Trinidadians. Lok Jack publicly bemoaned the absence of African entrepreneurs from the national business landscape. Lok Jack says he is concerned about the skewed distribution of economic wealth in our country and the absence of African entrepreneurs. Indo-Trinidadians appear not to figure in this 2020 Vision.

The Indo-Trinidadian community is witnessing a “shock and awe” pogrom with this state sanctioned policy that directs significant state resources primarily to one ethnic group. The lowering of qualifications for state employment, house padding, the establishment of the University of Trinidad & Tobago, Afro-Muslim profile in state projects, criminal elements association, the proposal of a political union with other Caribbean islands and state sponsored projects such as CEPEP, and HYPE are all examples of the pogrom perceived to push the Indian out the space that is shared in Trinidad & Tobago. The most visible of these affirmative action practices is the stone painting “make work” scheme better known as CEPEP. The Prime Minister even threatened at St Augustine that the allocation for CEPEP can double from the present $400 million. A recent NACTA poll asked if CEPEP is a government patronage programme to create employment for PNM supporters, 43% (mostly Indians) answered in the affirmative with 41% (mostly Africans) saying no and the remainder expressing no opinion. A significant number of Mixed and other ethnic groups also viewed CEPEP as a patronage programme. Many Africans point out that CEPEP also employs Indians but concede that Indians are under-represented in the programme. Asked if they agree with the accusation that the PNM discriminates against Indians, 41% (mostly Indian respondents and the minority ethnic groups) said yes and 42% (mostly Africans and Mixed race) said no.

The point is not that Indo-Trinidadians are crying for a “ten days,” to cut grass or to paint stones on the roadside. Instead Indians after over one hundred and fifty years are still arguing to have access to equivalent resources of the State for programmes which are relevant to their needs and community. Instead the government is building its own ethnic support base at the expense of all others. After all Indians pay taxes and therefore entitled to an equal share of the national patrimony. While the Prime Minister speaks and acts on “historical balancing” for Afro-Trinidadians he is silent on similar situations regarding Indo-Trinidadians in the army, public service, school boards, etc. In fact one can argue that given the proposed policy on shutting down of Caroni and the retrenchment of thousands of Indo-Trinidadian employees that a policy of racism by omission and commission is being perpetuated against Indo-Trinidadians on a scale never before seen. As we fast approach what may be the last Indian Arrival Day one wonders what is the position on this by Indian collaborators within the present administration. The pockets of a few Indians are being fattened while an entire community is being threatened to a Robert Mugabe type of administration.,0,4249.html
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