The letter by Anand Beharrylal published in the Express of June 15, (‘When will real equality come”) reminds me of the Aaron Levenstein quote, ‘Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital’.
Levenstein’s comments are suggestive but do not provide a full picture of the events referenced.
His Bhadase Sagan Maraj quote, used to establish discrimination against the Indo-Caribbean community, is not a contemporary reflection of the public service. It omits that both parties played that game but today the picture is more balanced. Like his comment about the Police Service, Beharrylal ignores the historical trajectory of participation in the development of the public sector.
Commissioner of Police GT Carr responded to a Commonwealth Commission inquiry about East Indians entering the police force, saying that the selection board had been trying everything possible to increase the number of East Indians in the force, because he was of the opinion that it should be the representative of the population(Daily Mirror, 1964). Mr Beharrylal ignores the colonial history of that institution, mostly peopled by NCRHA non-nationals. The first African commissioner, Eustace Bernard, was appointed in 1970.
He rightly identifies, albeit in an abridged form, Dr Williams’s 1958 quote about the ‘hostile and recalcitrant minority’ but wrongly paints Dr Williams as a uni-dimensional character in the mould of Enoch Powell.
The 1958 election was intensely racially tinged (Ryan, 2009). Mr Beharrylal sidesteps Williams’s 1957 defence of the Indian community when the colonial opinion was that local politics made Port of Spain a risky choice for the Federation’s capital. The Catholic News (March 1957) approbation of Williams’s turning down a demand for a statue of himself-‘It is a sign of true greatness when a leader does not lose sight of his mission…even at the expense of himself’escapes his view.
He forgets that a major argument in the Federal elections by the DLP was that victory would mean that the first prime minister of the West Indies would be an Indian, Ashford Sinanan. He does not acknowledge the infamous ‘My Dear Indian Brother’ letter issued in the elections battle.
Mr Beharrylal appears oblivious to the Colonial Office’s assessment of Sri Nanda, ‘the spearhead of Indian imperialism… with a bad effect of setting up an East Indian sense of separateness’, oddly perpetuating the racial divide created by the planters.
Williams, in response to the elections loss, was intemperate and hostile, betraying his ‘gross emotional instability’ (Mahabir, 1978). The pain of the Indian community was communicated by Messrs.
Mahabir, Montano, Mohammed and Mosaheb to Williams (Ryan, 2009, Mahabir, 1978).
Williams later explained that he had not intended to inflame racial passions. Lionel Seukeran withdrew his motion of no-confidence against Williams, remarking ‘he suddenly gone racial’ (Ryan, 2009). It was an ill-advised speech for the chief minister. Dr Rowley’s use of the loaded phrase was cringe-worthy and unnecessary.
Nizam Mohammed was not sacked for the fact that there was an ethnic imbalance in the Police Service. BC Pires, an astute observer of local events, remarked ‘Trinidad’s unerring instinct to do the wrong thing at the wrong time continues in spades.
Instead of Nizam Mohammed being made to see the error of his ways, he has now been made a martyr’.
Dr Rowley on April 20, 2011, in Parliament, said, ‘…the chairman of the commission made a very factual statement, or I should say, a number of factual statements, which, on their own, would have caused no untoward reaction in the country, because they were statements of facts… he interpreted the situation of fact as being the result of racial bias in the system, resulting in this over-representation of police officers of Afro origin based on racial discrimination… that these officers who today are in charge of the executive of the Police Service are there by virtue of racial discrimination, is a reckless statement…the current law makes no provision for the Police Service Commission to treat with the matter that the chairman purported to want to treat with.’
(Hansard) It is telling that the debate meandered into nothingness. Israel Khan, who represented Mr Mohammed, instructively remarked, ‘The People’s Partnership realise they cannot win an election without African support and the Opposition realise they have to pull back their African base from the Partnership…
and have thrown the ball in the court of the President’.
Oh wretched nation of ours! Who will deliver us from this deadly poison?