Apr 12 2011

Ethnic questions

Posted by admin in Politics, Race

Written by Clarence Rambharat (T&T Express)

I am left with this question: did Nizam Mohammed expose the UNC or upset it? Nizam’s submission to Parliament on ethnic proportionality was not accidental. It was grounded in the work of the AG, developed as a newspaper columnist, blogger and lawyer. The public must pay careful attention to see if this work is dead or if it will continue in anonymity and silence, advancing the so-called cause of Indians in a less obvious way. Or is it meant to advance a personal political agenda?

The AG is a well-known advocate of ethnic proportionality. But what is less obvious is that in almost every case in which he has written or spoken about ethnic proportionality, he has done so in the context of the PNM and its political power. In essence, the theory is that the ethnic imbalance in the protective services and other parts of the state and society is central to the political strength of the PNM.

I would imagine that logically extended, the AG’s view would be that rebalancing the ethnicity of the protective services and other parts of the society is central to building the political strength and national influence of the UNC, the country’s politics being irretrievably tied to ethnicity.

Based on that line of thinking, the AG has in the past been able to write on all the areas in which Indians are under-represented. My view is that some of this writing was not for the sake of advancing ethnic proportionality but reducing the perceived political power of the PNM and, without saying so, advancing the political cause he may be supporting at the particular time.

Now let me make this clear: in every society, equity, ethnic proportionality and non-discrimination are fundamental. In our plural society they are more tenuous and if they are left to seethe, they will sizzle and destroy. Two weeks ago I did not question the importance of what Nizam was saying. I challenged the fact that he was reporting on the submission made by another person to another public body; he had no data to support the statements; he did not discuss the matter with the other Police Service commissioners and, in any event, he was seeking to take on a fight that was clearly outside the PSC’s remit.

The AG is no stranger to the issue of ethnic proportionality. He has touched on the subject in at least a quarter of his newspaper columns and in almost every case he included a reference to ethnic proportionality and PNM political strength. In 2007 — the election year in which he eventually lost Tabaquite to former AG Maharaj — he wrote that “our country has two major races almost equal in numbers. The majority of Africans vote PNM and the majority of Indians vote UNC. Ethnic voting is a fact. The hierarchy of the police service is almost 90 per cent African from the rank of corporal upwards. Based on our history of racial voting the perception (and reality) is that African police officers vote for and support the PNM.”

And as a columnist he has said that “there is a growing perception among UNC supporters (the majority of whom are Indians), that there is a tacit political alliance between the PNM and certain high-ranking powerful officers in the police service.”

In advancing the link between ethnic proportionality in the Police First Division and public trust in the service, Nizam was in fact adopting one of the AG’s causes. It was the issue on which Nizam unsurprisingly laboured and then got pummelled. It was an issue which Ramlogan said in 2007 was central to the development of trust in the police service.

As he put it “the ethnic composition of the police service is fertile ground for this growing perception. Should such an important institution and pillar of our democracy not reflect the racial composition of our society? The perception that we have a PNM-friendly police service because of the conspicuous absence of Indian officers is not going to go away. Fear and respect for the police might make people reluctant to voice this perception, but it is there. The professionalism and integrity of our present officers is no answer to this problem of perception — remember that all-white judge and jury trial — they were not racial. It is crucial that the police service reflect the ethnic composition of the society that it has to protect and serve’. Ethnic balance inspires confidence and public trust.”

Now with Nizam gone and Anand Ramesar going soon we are left with a few questions for the PM, the UNC and the COP.

The first question is if it is true that Nizam got the inspiration for his description of the link between ethnic proportionality and public trust from within the UNC government, then does Nizam’s firing really bleach the UNC government of the statements made by Nizam?

Even if Nizam’s statement is not bound up with the AG’s views as a newspaper columnist, in what way is the UNC tied to the well established opinions and theories of its AG? Then, with the Government distanced from Nizam, what does the PM plan to do with those within the UNC structure, who have expressed similar views? Devant Maharaj, the chairman of the PTSC and a man who is noticeably silent on a cause he once fronted, has, for example, said the same thing Ramesar, Ramlogan and Nizam have said on ethnic proportionality. And finally, if only Nizam is condemned can it be said that Nizam’s views were intolerable from a Muslim but tolerable from the Hindus in the UNC — Ramlogan, Maharaj, Moonilal and Sharma, amongst others?

These questions are important because opinions and theories on ethnic proportionality must be shared by other members of the UNC, some placed in positions of significant political and decision-making power. And these opinions are not directed to advancing the so-called cause of Indians, but diminishing what is perceived to be the political strength of the PNM and advancing personal politics.

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