This afternoon the PNM is putting on a grand Divali celebration in St James. The celebration will feature a tassa competition, a beauty queen show and deya lighting. For a party that is in opposition and considered to be more Afro than any other ethnic group in its appeal, it is refreshing to see the efforts that Rowley et al are making to appear more inclusive. Indeed, since the PNM Convention on October 28 th The Keith has been quietly relentless about showing his many facets and in showing his softer side, he is attempting to show the PNMs accommodating side. But how accommodating is it?
Is it going to be a seasonal accommodation? One that pops up only during popular religious festivals? Will other less prominent ethnic groups also be a part of this new accommodation? Will other religious systems that are less prominent as well be welcomed into the fold? After all the PNMs mantra these days is " Come home to the PNM".
But what exactly are we coming home to? Is this new accommodation a pappy show to give an impression of inclusiveness, or is the PNM serious about turning a new leaf?
I am asking these hard questions because there are two major obstacles the PNM has to confront at some point in time publicly. Why? Because they are the obstacles that are thrown up all the time privately. The unspoken grouses the electorate has against the PNM as it were, and I think publicly confronting them will actually make the party appear stronger and serious about inclusion.
Right now the constant pictures of The Keith in koortah is window dressing for a deeper far more serious problem. Yes he looks very dapper and cuts a fine picture in ethnic garb. But as a half coolie that looks more African than Indian, I can tell you that there is far more to being Indian and winning the regard of the Indian community than donning ethnic garb. The PNM in particular and Afro Trinbagonians have always been viewed by the Indo community with skepticism and mistrust.
Social and political leaders of the Indo community have kept the mistrust alive with a constant reference to several grievances held against the PNM. There is the constant cry that the PNM has oppressed Indians, of course when you press for details and evidence the conversation always ends up the "recalcitrant minority" speech by Williams. A speech that happened. That it happened in reference to something else is irrelevant to the Indo community. What matters is that it was said and as far as Indians are concerned it speaks to the true feelings of both the PNM and Afro Trinis. Go to any FB group, especially UNC focused group and that's where all the conversations lead to. Pnm is a cult that don't like Indians and trying to oppress us. Ask the right questions and it boils down to the comment that has had Indians toting feelings against both PNM and Afros for half a century.
The Keith has begun addressing this grievance, but obliquely. It can't be a coincidence that at every opportunity he has been given in the last two weeks he constantly refers to the valuable contributions of the Hindu community. It is possibly a subtle, mea culpa....but this won't do.
You see Indians want their pound of fle......sorry, bhagi. And given the public way in which Williams made the comment, any addressing of it will have to be just as publicly. The PNM must make it clear that it is not now, nor ever will be, the party's position on Indians. It matters little that fifty years have passed since it was made. It matters little that much has been done to atone for it. Until the PNM faces that bogey head on, then it will always rear its head in quiet and not so quiet corners to be used against the party and Afro Trinis.
The tote is real The Keith, and the party must go on record as having addressed the issue. A simple Muje maaf kar do. To refuse to address it gives the comment and its offshoot behavior more power than it deserves.
When you go on record, you diffuse the strength of that comment made more than fifty years ago....and turn the tables on the whiners only intent on ethnic political mischief.
De Vice Cyah Done!