Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Dr Lincoln Douglas says the Congress of the People (COP) is viewing the current race dialogue “with grave concern”.
Douglas, speaking during a news conference yesterday at COP Operations Centre in Charlieville, Chaguanas, made the comment in light of comments about People’s National Movement (PNM) political leader Dr Keith Rowley being “too dark” to serve as prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
Former PNM senator Fitzgerald Hinds, at a PNM public meeting in Belmont last Wednesday, said Rowley’s hue might be a cause for concern among certain members of the party and even the wider society.
Stating it is “a denigration of the national dialogue on ethnic identifiers”, Douglas added: “It is talk with ‘a degree of negritude’ and ‘pigmentocracy’, or nothing that will add value about the talk about the colour of their skin. There is no value to a discussion on political capability... there is no value when electing leaders—it leads to the degeneration of the parties. We (COP) condemn the issue of race relations and divisiveness.”
Douglas made reference to the words of late American civil rights leader Martin Luther King. “A man should not be judged by the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character.”
Douglas cited examples of countries where racial dialogue had caused civil strife, including Rwanda and in the Middle East.
Reverting to his portfolio, Douglas said it was imperative for him to ensure racist conversation did not divide a multi-ethnic nation like T&T. “Even artistes should not be talking about these things as though it’s national dialogue,” said Douglas.
Last Friday, other citizens also commented on the issue. “It is as low as we could possibly go,” said Indera Sagewan-Alli, economist/executive director of the Caribbean Centre for Competitiveness.
In a telephone interview, Sagewan-Alli said: “It is a sad day where we are at a juncture where a person cannot lead a party because of skin colour. It is more about competence, charisma and understanding of the economy and the ability to grow the PNM. Rowley has a record as a leader. If the membership could reduce it to the colour of his skin, then it is as low as we could possibly go.
“Are we going to say the political leader is too Indian... too ridiculous. Neither party (PNM or UNC) can undo their historical roots. It is about finding the best people to manage the country in a way that would redound to the benefit of everyone.
“It is about seeing a reduction in crime and poverty. These are the factors we should note when we are talking leadership,” she added.
Former prime minister Basdeo Panday said he has always argued “Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most discriminated against and discriminatory societies. If we all were one colour and one race, there would be discrimination on things like height”.
And he felt it was a deterrent to nation-building.
“The sooner we get rid of looking at people’s colour, then the sooner we will become a nation. We are a society that finds any reason to discriminate. It has been one of our greatest drawbacks. If we don’t end discrimination, we will never be a great nation,” said Panday.
Former head of the Public Service and Express columnist Reginald Dumas said: “It tells us something about how backward and colonial our society is in spite our National Anthem.”
“It is arrested psychological development when we see things in terms of the white man or the black man, or the lighter in colour you are and the less African your hair is, the better you are. If that is maturity, then God help us... if God can,” said Dumas.
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