The notion of racial representation in Trinidad and Tobago is as anti-Trinagonian as roti without curry, bake without shark, or doubles without ‘channa’. Race in Trinidad and Tobago ought not to be debated in the context as articulated by popular culture in the US. In fact, the notion of ‘representation’ in a society committed to the concept of a nation as a ‘melting-pot’ is quite frankly absurd. ‘Representation’ in Trinidad and Tobago simply does not exist and should not!
The notion, held by some, that Dr. Keith Rowley, while on the international stage in New York (at the UN and at NASDAQ) did not fully represent the Indo-Trinbagonian community is without question a politically motivated attack, at least that’s the only meager explanation one can come up with given the fact that there is no other rational explanation. The notion that there weren’t enough people of Indo-Trinbagonian heritage standing next to the Prime Minister is bogus. In the case of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, his closest advisers are the most racially diverse one can imagine. Whether its Stewart Yong, Farris Al-wari, or Rohan Sinanan, the Prime Ministers combination of advisers is as diverse as that of any other Prime Minister before him, if not moreso. One may debate Dr. Rowley's partiality to certain personalities in his cabinet but race certainly does not appear to be one of his considerations in selecting his closest aides and ministers.
The Prime Minister's cabinet without question represents the racial kaleidoscope that is Trinidad and Tobago; this while keeping in mind the fact that if it didn't, there would quite frankly be no issue with that whatsoever.
A Prime Minister has dominion over his Cabinet, to select and choose the persons who best suits his own subjective criteria.
"In fact, the notion of ‘representation’ in a society committed to the concept of a nation as a ‘melting-pot’ is quite frankly absurd."
The notion of there needing to be ‘racial representation’ in Trinidad and Tobago is a disturbing concept. The reality is that the majority of us are so ‘mixed’ that we cannot place a direct line to any particular continent as our true ancestors. The concept of a ‘pure race’ is racist, bigoted, and backward – an ode to the Aryan madness of a Hitler who would have spat on an Indian with as much venom as he would an African. This notion every Trinbagonian must reject forthright! Even if one can point directly to the heritage of a particular race or ancestor, this must take second place to the notion of our Trinbagonian-ness. Take for example the familial history of this writer - the grandson of a man born to a white father and a ‘dougla’ mother, who married a woman - the daughter of an Indian man and ‘dougla’ mother. These two bore a son, who by whatever random metrics used in racial calculation colloquially in Trinidad would be mixed/coloured. He married a black woman- the decedent of African slaves – father being a black man from Grenada and mother a black woman from Tobago. These two bore sons – who by anecdotal logic would equal to – dougla, dougla, black - which we all know does not exist and ought not even to be a consideration in a nation that embraces the concept of a ‘melting-pot’- as we do in Trinidad and Tobago.
"A Prime Minister has dominion over his Cabinet, to select and choose the persons who best suits his own subjective criteria. "
As Trinbagonians, our association to the culture of Trinidad and Tobago and connection to Trinidad ought to be stronger than any other connection – whether it be to India, Africa, Europe, China or Syria. This particular quotation is used ad nauseam in reference to the fundamental concept of this experiment we call Trinidad and Tobago. But if not for anything else, let the following be a reminder of our nation's principles. The founding father of this nation espoused this following doctrine, which was as relevant in 1962 Trinidad as it is today, in 2019.
“Together, the various groups in Trinidad and Tobago have
suffered, together they have aspired, together they have
achieved. Only together can they succeed. And only together
can they build a society, can they build a nation, can they
build a homeland. There can be no Mother India, for those
whose ancestors came from India....there can be no Mother
Africa, for those of African origin. There can be no Mother England
and no dual loyalties.....There can be no Mother China, even if one could
agree as to which China is the Mother; and there can be no Mother
Syria and no Mother Lebanon. A nation, like an individual, can
have only one Mother. The only Mother we recognize is Mother
Trinidad and Tobago, and Mother cannot discriminate between her children…”
As Trinbagonians, we are fortunate enough to be members of potentially the most unique societal mixture of people the world has ever seen. For this Trinbagonian experiment to be successful, we must embrace Trinbagonian-ness above all else. To my fellow Indo-Trinbagonians who may be of the view that they are of some ‘pure blood’ – I say, to pursue this path of division will bare no fruit, whether it be for short term political gain, or in moral correctness.
Allow me to share a personal story that may be relevant in this particular case. I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine born and bred in India named Taki. Taki was and is a big fan of the West Indian cricketer Suneil Narine. Taki and I played together for a European cricket team. For him he was amazed as to how someone like Suneil Narine - someone with such an Indian name - was Trinidadian, and West Indian. It wasn’t a challenge to explain to Taki that the fundamental concept of being Caribbean, West Indian, and in our case Trinbagonian, is that our skin color does not determine our allegiance, neither is our religion the source of our patriotism. Rather, in its truest sense, Trinidad and Tobago is a nation committed to: Discipline, Production and Tolerance - with Tolerance being that lasting word. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, as I would later on explain to my friend Taki, it is most probable that Suniel Narine would find more in common with me in social and cultural tastes than he would with Taki. In fact, I am more than certain that Narine will be much more comfortable in the Oval, or on the Brian Lara Promenade than he would in New Delhi or Eden Gardens in Kolkata. I can be wrong, but I doubt it.
The notion of racial representation in Trinidad and Tobago is as anti-Trinagonian as roti without curry, bake without shark, or doubles without ‘channa’.
Author: Mikhail E.D. Byng
Mikhail E.D. Byng is the author of the book ‘Off the Island’, which is available on Amazon.com. He’s also a graduate student of Peace Studies at the University of Belgrade.
Mikhail E.D. Byng was born in Trinidad. He is the author of Off the Island and a graduate student at the University of Belgrade. He speaks Serbian and English.
Trinbagonian. Traveler. Believer in God. Believer in Creation. Life long Student. Sports enthusiast.