Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 22nd 2015 Contents A6
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt March 22, 2015
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T&T must confront the racial
divide if it is to move forward as a
society. However, that confrontation
will not take place before the 2015
general election, as race will once
again be a significant factor in the
polls, said UWI professor and noted
historian Dr Brinsley Samaroo.
Speaking with the Sunday
Guardian about the contentious
issue, Samaroo contended that there
would be a continuance of tribal vot-
ing in 2015 since that was what cit-
izens had been taught and that was
all they knew.
"I am sure we can change posi-
tively, but in the interim, for the next
election, my own view is it will be
fought very much along ethnic lines
with very few cases of crossovers.
As we say in local parlance who
have more corn will feed more fowl.
"The bottom line is I do not see
in the next election any change in
the ethnic pattern of voting, very
unfortunately, very sadly."
Race has been in the spotlight over
the last two weeks. Firstly, it was
raised when a firestorm erupted on
social media over a photo of a
National Gas Company sign adver-
tising the refurbishment of the East
Indian Recreation Ground in south
The issue escalated last week with
the publication of a racist rant from
Chaguaramas Development Author-
ity (CDA) board member Jaishima
Leladharsingh on Facebook last year.
He was immediately fired when the
racist posts resurfaced on social
Samaroo contended that even
though citizens might challenge
racial issues, at the end of the day,
when they went into the voting
booth in 2015, people would not look
at what parties had to offer by way
of education, health, or diversifica-
tion of the economy.
"Most people are not concerned
about that, they are concerned about
political control. I say sadly, as
blessed a nation that it is and as
much as we love it, going into the
next election (T&T will) basically be
voting on ethnic lines," Samaroo said.
'The elites don't want
change...we need a unifying
Samaroo said though he did not
believe any of the present politicians
deliberately wanted to continue this
ethnic trend of politics or foster
racism, neither did he believe that
any one of the current cadre of
politicians "has the larger vision and
the capability to do something about
that (ethnic voting) in their political
He said, historically, the masses
were brought up in a status quo of
divide and rule which had been
entrenched by colonial masters. This,
he said, continued today and was
unlikely to change soon.
"The elites are the ones who like
it so and there are those elites who
have the political power, the eco-
nomic power and so on. And if you
are prospering in a system then why
should it be changed? That is why
the elites do not want any change,"
"So we are in a real dilemma and
all I can say is, I wish the country
well for the next election."
He said in 1937 the races in T&T
came together under the guidance
of Uriah "Buzz" Butler and Adrian
Cola Rienzi during the "Oilfield
riots" and that was a "watershed
moment" in this country s history.
Samaroo said he was hopeful that
T&T could recreate that unification
of the races.
"We certainly can and my hope is
that we do. I would really like to see
people brought together, not as
Africans and Indians but as members
of the working class, as members of
A case of race in the
2015 general election
the professional class, as members of the ruling
elite crossing those ethnic lines and really working
together to build the nation," he said.
However, he said, the trade union did not have
the kind of leadership Butler and Rienzi provid-
"We do not have such big men, such great men
who provided a fantastic vision for T&T. Sadly,
we do not have trade union leaders who have the
vision, the capacity, the charisma of either Butler
or Rienzi to bring the ethnicities together on a
working class basis."
Samaroo said the only way to get rid of the
"ethnic bogey" was through constitutional reform
that truly incorporated aspects of governance
from the various ethnicities present in T&T.
Kambon---Citizens must want change, voices
of reason must emerge
Chairman of the Emancipation Support Com-
mittee, Kafra Kambon, also contended that the
2015 general election would be one fought on the
basis of race.
However, he suggested, citizens must want to
make a change in society and voices of reason
must emerge to reverse the trend of tribal voting.
"We have a tendency to perceive things through
a racial lens and examine through that and focus
on that and it (tribal voting) is going to happen.
I do not know what voices of moderation can
come into play to prevent [race] from escalating
because it is a big challenge," Kambon said.
He said T&T had not moved past race because
the issue had never been addressed with the
"We have not done that and we have not done
anything institutionally as well to ensure that
other generations grow up in a different envi-
ronment. Therefore, it is always dependent on
the goodwill of some persons who have some
influence to maintain things in some kind of bal-
Sat Maharaj: Expect a bruising campaign
based on performance and personalities
Satnarayan Maharaj, head of the Sanatan
Dharma Maha Sabha, agrees with Samaroo that
race will play a part in the general election, but he
believes that most citizens have matured beyond
In recent times, there have been people migrating
over racial lines when it comes to voting and we
saw that move when the COP (Congress of the
People) emerged during the Basdeo Panday era. So
that in a mixed society such as T&T race should be
discussed openly and without any animosity and we
will live happily ever after," Maharaj said.
He said T&T's citizens had a more elevated way of
thinking and he believed that "there will be
movement across the racial barrier" in 2015. "
I think the politicians have managed to shift the
issues away from race to performance and vision. I
think we have come a long way, we have matured,"
he said. Maharaj said he expected the 2015 general
election campaign to be a "bruising campaign."
However, "I do not think race will play an
important part in the campaign itself. But I believe it
will be a bruising campaign when it comes to
performance and the personalities involved,"
Race, Kambon contended, has to be institu-
"We do not really give thought to that. Indi-
viduals who hold public office are also too careless
in terms of how they deal with issues of race,"
Society can only be harmonised, he said,
through "unity in diversity."
"We have the cultural background for that, but
we are not drawing on it and making use of those
elements in our cultural background that will
bring about a greater harmony. We prefer not to
discuss it, and pretend that it is not a factor in
how the society functions, and then practise it,"
Dr Brinsley Samaroo
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