T&T, it’s time for us to heal the divide

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Trinidad

and Tobago has had an excellent record for changing governments without conflicts, upheavals and with minimum disruption. The 2020 general election was conducted along the same lines, for the most part. However, with Covid-19 we saw the same ‘picong’ and fatigue with some degree of racial comments mainly on social media.

Racial comments on social media made by a woman who is a member of the family that owns Ramsaran’s Dairy Products caused tremendous negative response from the public. The chief executive officer of Massy Foods hastily instructed all his store managers to pull all Ramsaran’s dairy products from their shelves. Other supermarkets followed and did the same.

The president of the Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) advised its members to boycott Ramsaran’s Dairy Products, but not all supermarkets complied.

Two days later, SATT rescinded this advice, indicating that the association was satisfied with the actions taken by the company to rectify this unfortunate situation. Additionally, on Sunday, Mr Gervase Warner of Massy Foods apologised and replaced the products on their shelves.

It appears that little consideration was given to the effect of boycotting any company in a depressed economy which could easily result in workers losing their jobs, damage to corporate brands and a reduction in the circulation of money in the system. Revenge breeds revenge. This was seen when persons on social media made calls to the public not to buy from supermarkets that did not carry the Ramsaran’s products.

Not forgetting, if we asked ourselves the question, some of our worst enemies are those who carry the same blood in their veins are ‘our loving family’? This can be proven when we look at matters in the local court. Who knows whether this case was as a result of a family dispute. No one questioned the woman’s family or asked for an explanation for the remarks. The young lady later apologised on Facebook and the CEO of the company also apologised.

My fellow citizens of my beloved country, Trinidad and Tobago, my mother always told me ‘when you go to the toilet, always check if there is toilet paper, so when you mess up yourself, you would have something to use to clean’. Also, she also often said that before you speak, think twice and speak once.

As a foundation member of SATT for over 50 years, I am kindly asking the president of SATT and its members to revisit their constitution and Mission Statement and make amendments to include regulations and policy to avoid any recurrence of this unpleasant situation.

Our multi-cultural society allows us to enjoy Carnival parties, 20/20 cricket, football, etc, with everyone hugging, dancing, drinking and having fun. ‘All ah we is one!’ ‘Trini to the bone!’ No Afro- and Indo-Trinbagonian, only Mother Trinidad and Tobago. But when general election time comes, it is ‘we and them’-yellow Caroni and red Laventille. As Parliament starts the Opposition and Government exchange abuse, insults, walkouts, total chaos and disrespect for one another with each side only ‘kicksing’ in Parliament.

Our children watch on television as our leaders display all these abnormalities. It is clear that our leaders must change their attitude. Our population is made up of 34 per cent Afro, 35 per cent Indo, and 28 per cent mixed. I asked myself what lies ahead for the future of our mixed-race population, of which ‘Douglas’ are the majority.

I am calling on the Government to consider starting a committee that may include people like Pastor Clive Dottin, Knolly Clarke, Tony Watkins, Thomas Isaac, the PRO of both the PNM and the UNC, myself and any other responsible persons in order to have a conversation to discuss possible framework for ethnic and race relations in Trinidad and Tobago. My hope is that this would go a long way in healing the divide and leading to the fulfilment of the establishment of a true rainbow country.

Balliram Maharaj