No return to affirmative action
Last Divali, hundreds who voted against the PNM on October 7, were feted a la Hindu style. That is the Bharat Jagdeo model, where the President of Guyana uses State resources to fund national celebrations at the official residence of the President.
PM Manning has bestowed upon the nation and the Muslim community the same honour with a dinner to commemorate Eid on the night of December 12. There will be an equally lavish and all-inclusive Christmas party.
Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Baptists, Orishas, Bahai and others will be given the nations hospitality paid for by the Treasury and enjoyed at La Fantasie. They are all taxpayers and deserve the same respect that the thousands who benefited from the 40 days of fete.
Mr Manning has learned from his defeat in 1995. He seems to be avoiding party paramountcy in favour of inclusion. He now accepts that cronyism and affirmative action for PNM party hacks cannot replace a meritocracy when selecting the strategic managers of T&T.
He has retained the highly successful UNC-installed board of the Self Help Commission (SHC). A dynamic Indian, Krishna Raj-kumar, extended the SHC to all corners of T&T. The PM has been impressed. Wisdom and fairness have prevailed.
This policy of inclusion has angered the fanatical PNM loyalists. As a daily routine on radio they abuse Manning for such a wise, Solomonic and statesman-like posture. But Manning has warmed to competence and sees value in visionary managers.
He has also retained Dave Ramlal, a young Indian lawyer, as chairman of the board of TTEC. Mr Ramlal has changed the image of TTEC and improved the services to the point where outages are a nightmare of yesteryear.
At Caroni Ltd, he has retained Dr Kusha Harracksingh as chairman of the loss-making company.
The Afro-centrists and nepotists in the PNM cannot adjust to the nationalistic innovations of inclusion Manning is now attempting to implement.
Our country stands to benefit and the vision of the UNC may become a reality under the PNM, if Mr Manning can neutralise the Black Power factions in the PNM. They want a blatant affirmative action project for Africans, which will give every important or strategic post to a PNM party hack, however incompetent.
For such people, Arthur Lok Jack should not be the driving force behind the Vision 2020 committee.
Such persons believe Indians, local whites and Syrians must stick to their traditional roles, leaving the PNM to dominate politics, the government and set the cultural tone of the society.
Hindus have successfully rejected the cultural aspects of that Black Power-Afro-centric vision. Mr Manning recognises this when he supports Indian musical instruments financed from the Treasury for Hindu schools.
He clearly recognises this in the lavish way Divali was celebrated at the PMs residence. All this is very good for our country. Yet we have misgivings.
We cannot prosper when some are left behind in the race to equip our children for the global economy. How is an Afro-centric affirmative action project to deal with the non-performance of tens of thousands of our school children? How is such a policy to deal with crime?
I believe that any policy of affirmative action will only provide incentives for dependency, for the demand of entitlements as ten days and undeserved jobs. Affirmative action will not change the culture which undermines the will to strive, to save and to promote family values on which so much depends.
Dr Eric Williams, for his entire life as Prime Minister (1956-81), was guided by a policy of affirmative action in favour of Africans. Today, we witness the negative consequence of that failed policy.
There are problems in our schools caused by the cultural gulf between teachers, who now fear for their safety, and abusive children, who sometimes assault the teachers. The results are reflected in the percentage of failures in our schools.
This cannot be allowed to continue. Some communities must get their calypsonians to stop stereotyping ethnic groups, which are repeated by some students to teachers. Calypsonians must teach our children to emulate the better qualities that make others successful.
They must help children to deal with their culture and value systems which help explain why they underperform. Culture, not race, explains youth crime.
Culture is about family values, parenting and the fantastic push for quality education which the Maha Sabha has been pursuing.
Culture is about making every home a learning centre and helping children to pursue excellence at school as a duty to their parents and an obligation of their religion and nation.
We are very concerned about the faith some people invest in affirmative action for a particular group. Our Constitution forbids it. We cannot help the weak by weakening the strong.
We must promote a meritocracy and help others to change their culture which encourages victimhood, dependency and the use of the Treasury to supply ethnic entitlements.
Satnarayan Maharaj is the Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
©Copyright 2002, The Trinidad Guardian