A few days ago, Prime Minster Dr Keith Rowley lashed out at mainly Indo-Trinidadian (Indian) critics by saying that they were “trying to stir up racial hatred” in the multi-ethnic society.
He was reported in the media as saying that his ruling PNM party “continues to be the only true national party” in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) where “every creed and race find an equal place.”
Rowley added: [J]ust remember half of the PNM Government is Indian” and that “those Indians [critics] are insulting the Indian population … please have a conversation with them [Indians in the Government].”
Rowley was trying to deflect criticism by ethnic, religious and women’s groups that his party had promoted violence on a sari-clad Hindu and Indian woman in a skit at its Sports and Family Day on Sunday August 12, 2018.
There are 23 PNM Members of Parliament (MP) in the House of Representatives. Of these, there are only two (2) Indians: Faris Al-Rawi and Terrence Deyalsingh. Indians, therefore, constitute a trifle nine percent (9%) of PNM MPs in Parliament.
Apparently Rowley miscounted. Half of the PNM Government is not Indian. There are only 26 percent (or 6) Indians in Cabinet as Ministers viz Clarence Rambharath, Terrence Deyalsingh, Kazim Hosein, Rohan Sinanan, Franklin Khan, and I reluctantly threw in Faris Al-Rawri too in the daal pot.
Seventy-four percent (74%) or 17 Ministers in government are non-Indians. There is a margin of error of plus or minus one minister whose ethnicity could not be determined.
The PNM Indian minsters are neither recognised nor respected by the vast majority of Indians long before the PNM’s refusal to select Kamaluddin Mohammed or Errol Mahabir as the Prime Minister on the death of Dr. Williams in 1981.
According to Government’s CSO population survey in 2011, Indians consist of 35 percent of the population, the largest ethnic group in the country. Comprising 26 percent in the government, Indian ministers are, therefore, underrepresented and do not find a proportionate “equal place” in Rowley’s PNM administration.
The Ministers in Rowley’s Government who are all members and representatives of the PNM have tremendous rights, powers and privileges. Pursuant to Chapter 5, Section 74.1 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister and Ministers in his Cabinet have been empowered to “have the general direction and control of the government of Trinidad and Tobago …”.
Rohan Sinanan is the only Hindu in Cabinet and Kazim Hosein is the only Muslim. These two non-Christians were installed in the Cabinet in June and November 2016 consecutively, more than a year after the PNM took Government in September 2015.
Rowley appointed these two non-Christian Ministers after complaints by Hindus and Muslims that they were not represented in Government. Sinanan represents six percent (6%) of the Hindus and Kazim 20 percent (20%) respectively in the population. According to the CSO population survey in 2011, Hindus comprise 18% of the population and Muslims 5%. Sinanan can, therefore, be seen as a window dressing because Hindus are grossly underrepresented in Government.
Operating under a republican constitution, the Prime Minister in T&T heads a cabinet of ministers who are chosen by him or her. In the current administration, Rowley has the power to appoint and revoke ministers in his cabinet who are executive, high-ranking decision-makers.
The book Caribbean Islands (1989), edited by Sandra Meditz and Dennis Hanratty, states that in T&T: “The prime minister is by far the most powerful figure in the government and is responsible for running the government. The prime minister chooses cabinet ministers from Parliament, who are then appointed by the president, and he can change ministers and ministries at will.”
There are 19 ambassadors chosen by Rowley to embassies abroad. Of the 19 ambassadors, only three (or 16%) are Indians: H.E. Garth Chatoor in Ottawa in Canada, H.E. Roger Gopaul in South Africa, and H.E. Stephen Seedansingh in China. Sixteen percent (16%) is not half (50%), Mr Prime Minister and Political Leader.
Despite the etymology of her last name, Jenelle Pariag is not an Indian. Pariag is the Acting Consul General in Miami in the USA. His Excellency Dave Persad was T&T’s High Commissioner in India until he resigned in July due to reportedly corrupt “financial accountability” in the embassy.
An attorney and former chairman of the Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation under the People’s Partnership Government, Persad joined the PNM campaign during the general election in 2015. It is widely believed that he was awarded the diplomatic post for his betrayal of the People’s Partnership.
Appointments of High Commissioners/Ambassadors are made by the President in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister. They are highest-ranking representatives of T&T in their respective host countries and represent the interests and policies of their home country.
The abysmally small number of Indians as directors and heads of State boards would be another article for another day.