From the Emancipation Support Committee
August 12, 2020
The 2020 general election in Trinidad and Tobago is over but some of the vibrations it has generated and disturbing racist statements which have circulated in the public domain could seriously damage the potential for this society to rise to the critical challenges which face us all in a Covid undermined world. International news stories are daily indicating that even the largest economies on the planet are tottering. Trinidad and Tobago is not immune, though we may well have forgotten that in the glow of election promises from all contenders.
To his credit, however, the re-elected Prime Minister, in his victory statement on August 10, began preparing the population for two difficult years ahead. It is one thing for political parties to create unrealistic expectations in the population about economic growth during an election campaign but another to resort to coded language and racially insensitive advertising that excite negative emotions about each other in our nation’s Indian and African populations.
One consequence of this is visible in some of the extreme anti-African racist statements on Facebook that have been drawn to our attention. Some of the most offensive remarks that have been widely circulated were penned in an exchange between one Naila Ramsaran and Akash Vish Pundit. No “apology” that rings as insincere as Ms. Ramsaran’s does could wipe away the anger generated by her reference to us as “the loafers that support the PNM” who will continue to depend on the taxes paid by her and other “hardworking UNC supporters” to mind us. Worse when the insult is amplified by Akash’s claim that the “loafers” referred to by Ramsaran would, presumably each of us, be “making 12 children for the state to support”. No post-election disappointment could justify such expressions.
It is significant that Naila Ramsaran also referred to Africans as “cockroaches”. Perhaps more of our people who blindly support the crude, dehumanizing descriptors for our people often used by our present Commissioner of Police, which include the word “cockroaches” would now understand the deadly racist connotations of such language. Our self respect demands that we do not accept such characterizations from anyone.
We wish to call on all the leaders in our society not only to publicly denounce openly inciting racist statements but to take measures at the level of the State and Civil Society to rescue our society from growing negative racial sentiments in our society, particularly between our two numerically dominant populations. We cannot continue on a road that will lead to the destruction of our country. We are still at a point where sanity about race relationships is strong enough in both our communities, where there is enough genuine goodwill and recognition of our co-dependence and common interests for us to arrest what is potentially a very destructive slide. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Black Power revolution in Trinidad and Tobago we need to revisit its lessons which can teach us the principled path to achieving harmony in diversity in a society which needs it, even more so with the challenges which are just ahead.