Playing the race card for votes in Trinidad and Tobago

Keith Rowley

Fifty-eight years after Trinidad and Tobago attained political independence from Britain,  we’re still hearing about race problems  plaguing the twin-island state. Would you believe?

In fact, the  vexed question of race became a major talking point in Independence Day speeches last Monday. The president, the leader of the Opposition. a high court judge – they all had something to say  about this problem.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Let’s not forget: Time was when cosmopolitan Trinidad and Tobago was seen as a model nation with respect to inter-racial solidarity – an example for countries such as Canada with its long standing regional and racial divisions.

But alas, lately some race haters on  social media have been stoking the fire of racism – and  doing a very good job of it in creating  disquiet in the society.

Local politicians themselves cannot remain  blameless in this matter.Tribal politics is still alive in Trinidad and Tobago and politicians from the two major parities are only too willing to play the race card.

Political observers note that at public meetings  some of these politicians speak the language of racial solidarity but in smaller groups with people of their own race, they “badmouth the others.”

Of course, this can be a dangerous game but in the business of amassing votes, many of these politicians are prepared to play the game, regardless of the possible consequences.

However, this  cannot go on forever.The percentage of people of mixed race in Trinidad and Tobago is growing  and soon enough appeals to race by local politicians will no longer be successful.

Perhaps after the present generation of political leaders in Trinidad and Tobago have passed on, the performance of  the political parties in the country may be judged by their track record and  not by political affiliation.

We look forward to that day when political parties in Trinidad and Tobago are no longer seen as  Afro parties or Indian parties.
Meanwhile, as  columnist Carlton Joseph says in the op-ed in this issue of The Caribbean Camera, political leaders of the two main parties[in Trinidad and Tobago ] ” must show respect for each other, accept responsibility for where we are and make a serious effort to address the issue of racism.”

Joseph also calls on calypsonians to reclaim their role as “messengers of the people” and stop being loyal to any political party. 

We hope that they take this advice to heart in the interest of improving race relations

However, despite all the rumblings which we are hearing, we still do not believe that Trinidad and Tobago is heading into any kind of race war.

We remain hopeful, that all this talk about  race will  die a natural death as it usually does soon after a general election in the land of calypso and people of different races will again be jumping up together at the carnival whenever it is next held