Shah convicted in 1968 for Criminal Action

 Shah convicted in 1968 for Criminal Action

Dear Editor,

Raffique Shah’s column “Tribalism Among Indians” (Express 16th May, 2017) represents the latest distortion and insult directed against Indians in Trinidad. This vicious attack on Indian political behaviour began on April, 1st 1958 following the defeat of the People’s National Movement (PNM) in the Federal Elections of 1958 by Democratic Labour Party (DLP) led by Bhadase Sagan Maraj.

With respect to Africans, Shah stated that “most Afro-Trinis have shed blind race-loyalty - The Afro-vote has long ceased to be racially anchored.” He added: “Of course, I don’t have the empirical evidence to support this claim.”

On the other hand, the “Indo-vote remains a monolith” and “is an even worse form of tribalism than what obtains among Indo-Guyanese.” He further added that “when it comes to politics, Indians don’t mince matters: “apan jhat” is the guiding and deciding factor.”

These anti-Indian views is not supported by any evidence of the political behaviour of the Trinidad and Tobago electorate, even though the research and empirical data is readily available What is even more unsettling is the stereotype of Indians and their political behaviour which is perpetuated by certain quarters.

In his study Social and Ethnic Stratification and Voting Behaviour in Trinidad and Tobago 19561990 by Prof Selwyn Ryan; in the Ryan edited publication Social and Occupational Stratification in Contemporary Trinidad and Tobago (ISER UWI 1991), Ryan stated that “the data produced by survey research in Trinidad from the period 1956-1981 reveal that - in so far as there is cross over, Indians were far more willing to do so than the Africans who were less open to the prospect of a change in the ethnicity of the leader or party which controls the government.”

Ryan further wrote that while “ethnicity is the most important determinant of political behaviour in Trinidad - the evidence suggests that Indians are less racially predisposed than Africans where voting is concerned.” In fact, for various reasons “many professional Indians and Muslims endorsed the PNM.”

Shah is the unfortunate beneficiary of the PNM race politics. Major Stewart Hylton Edwards book, Lengthening Shadows: Birth and Revolt of the Trinidad Army (Inprint, 1982) wrote that “it is also worth noting that Shah had been found guilty and convicted of a felony in 1968. He should have been required to resign his commission immediately - as is the tradition in the British and Commonwealth armed forces on which Trinidad and modelled - but Gerard Montano (the Minister) and Stanley Johnson decided that politically, it was desirable not to force the resignation of the only officer of East Indian descent.” He concluded: “Thus did politics and appeasement bring Trinidad almost to the point of disaster?”

Gerard Montano himself was the victim of PNM race politics when he was removed in 1971 as parliamentary representative of San Fernando East constituency and sent as ambassador to Brasil. His replacement was Patrick Manning.

The reality is that the PNM is a black creole communal political party masquerading as a national party. The political history of the country from 1956 proves this quite conclusively. The propaganda perpetuated by the likes of Raffique Shah would not stand for long.

Kamal Persad


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