PROMOTING EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, RECOGNIZING TALENT AND RESPECTING DIVERSITY – THE WAY OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTNERSHIP – By Surujrattan Rambachan
Bishnu Ragoonath in an article written in 1999 entitled “The structure and philosophy of Trinidad’s local government” reminds us of a statement made by Lloyd Best on the night of the local government elections of 1996. To quote Ragoonath “Lloyd Best, an Afro-Trinidadian commentator stated on national television that the pendulum which had swung too far, and as such all Afro-Trinidadian political parties must combine forces to ensure that there is a check on the rise of Indo-Trinidadians to political power.”
Perhaps many will remember this statement of the well- respected Lloyd Best which indeed shocked many persons, given that Mr Best was considered a fair and just person who always wanted national unity of all the tribes in the country. If you fast forward seventeen years later you will see that not much has changed. Selwyn Ryan in his Sunday article of 31st March 2013 writes at the end of an article dealing with the composition of boards appointed under the People’s Partnership, “One has to stop the pendulum.” It remains for Ryan to explain what he means by this statement and hopefully he will say that it is not a reference to the fact that East Indians now make up too many of the Cabinet or the Boards.
It is rather surprising that after Ryan concludes in his article that there is more balance in the composition of the Cabinet, the State Boards and the People’s Partnership MP’s that he throws this line at his readers, almost revealing his deep fears and prejudices. Why has this statement emanated from Ryan? The facts cannot be hidden. As a researcher of great repute, Dr Ryan knows that the figures cannot be distorted. They may be subject to skewed interpretations but not distorted.
And what did Dr Ryan find on examination of the composition of the Boards and Cabinet. Here is an extract from Ryan’s article in the Express of Sunday march 231st 2013.
DATA COLLECTED UP TO MAY 14, 2012, SHOW THAT THERE IS NO MASSIVE IMBALANCE IN THE MEMBERSHIP AND CHAIRMANSHIP OF PUBLIC SECTOR BOARDS.
- Of the 1,369 members of State boards appointed by the Partnership Cabinet, 694 are of Indian descent and 675 are held by non-Indians, a mere difference of 19.The percentages are 50.6 and 48.6 respectively. (The figures predate those recently made by Mr Howai’s recent reshuffle). Imbalance is however evident when we look at persons holding board chairs, but the pattern is not very skewed.
- Of the 154 chairmanships, 83, or 54 per cent, are held by Indians and 71, or 46 per cent, are held by non-Indians. Many had a different impression. But one needs to recall that the Partnership was a coalition, and board memberships would have had to be politically and ethnically diverse. It would be interesting to determine who controls the boards that are of critical status and prestige. Data on cabinet membership are also worth noting. What they show, unsurprisingly, is that PNM cabinets are far more racially skewed than NAR, UNC or Coalition cabinets.
- Fifty-four per cent of the Partnership Cabinet members were Indians and 46 per cent were non-Indians.
- When the data was looked at in terms of religion, we find that 56 per cent of the latter are Christian, 39 per cent are Hindu and five per cent were Muslim.
- What these figures indicate is that in terms of numbers, the Partnership is an Indian, but not a Hindu-dominated coalition. Many who are assumed to be Hindu are in fact Christian”
Then Dr Ryan, please explain your statement that one has to stop the pendulum. I thought that we are all for a society based on merit and equality, a society where a political party in power does not discriminate. Is it that you have also proven that the cries of discrimination are like the boy who called wolf.
Dr Ryan even goes further to suggest that the Equal Opportunities Commission must intervene. Is this the role of the EOC? To quote Dr Ryan:
“Perhaps it is time for the Equal Opportunity Commission to monitor these rotations, not of course to allocate quotas or any such idiocy, but to try and ensure that “realignment” is not a euphemism for a counter hegemony. One has to stop the pendulum. The downstream consequences of failing to do so are likely to be high.”
Is Dr Ryan speaking in the same tones as Lloyd Best and asking as Best did that “all Afro-Trinidadian political parties must combine forces to ensure that there is a check on the rise of Indo-Trinidadians to political power.” It is highly unfortunate in my humble view that this position is still dominant in the minds of some of our respected political analysts. What does Ryan mean by the downstream consequences of failing to do so are likely to be too high.
Sadly it appears that Dr Ryan is disappointed that his research does not lead to a conclusion of discrimination. It is a tribute to the leader of the Partnership and to all the partners in the partnership that equality of opportunity and balance has been a hallmark of the appointments to the state boards and to the cabinet.
The data presented by Ryan also refutes the claims of those who label this government as an Indian and Hindu based government. The reality is that this government is one of the most mixed ever on this political landscape. The electorate must now rise to protect what it created by dealing a death blow to racial voting in 2010 and continue to build a society which values each person equally. If ever the racial divide in politics was broken or crossed it was on May 24 th 2010. We must not now step backwards. May 24th 2010 marked the birth of a unity that must be preserved at all costs. there is no need to fear each other. In any event the laws of this country protects persons from discrimination.
We must move forward and build an egalitarian society where competence and merit prevail as the dominant factors that support individual progress, where potential is respected and given opportunity to excel. This is what I understand to be the way of the Partnership. This is the quality and character of the leadership of Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar who walks the talk, not just preaches a leadership philosophy but follows through by closing the gap between what is said and what is done. As PM it is obvious from the data presented that she stands above the accusations made against her and the government about discrimination.
And for those who claimed that ethnic stocking was taking place in TT, I trust that they will also have the decency to retract their publications. Or is it that they will call Dr Ryan a liar?
We will all rise together or fall together!