Family Brawl Drowns Out Opportunity's Knocking.

Thank you, Camille Bethel, for your article yesterday, April 2, 2011, [See below] which dusted off the 1994 report, "Ethnicity and Employment Practices in Trinidad and Tobago. Volume I—(The Public Sector)" and brought its contents to a wider audience. I didn't have this information when I expressed my opinion on the matter but it just strengthens my conviction that Mr. Nizam Mohammed should be commended rather than hounded for giving us this rare opportunity to discuss these matters out in the open.

If there was something objectionable [and I have no proof of this] about the spirit with which Mr. Mohammed expressed his views or his intention to remedy the situation, then he would have learned by now how NOT to approach such matters in the future. If, however, he put his views on the table in good faith, as part of his contribution to correcting what he perceives to be an imbalance, it remains the work of those assigned to address such matters to give his opinion the attention which it deserves. The issue cannot simply be blown out of the water or swept under the carpet. The same people who are now crying race may one day find themselves in a situation where they need their complaints about discrimination of any sort to be taken seriously and not shouted down or ignored.

I found this quote from the report very interesting:

"It was found that in a number of cases, what was perceived as 'racial discrimination' was in fact the end result of a number of factors such as patronage, family network or membership of a clique."
I am absolutely no expert on these matters but doesn't this prove that we still have a problem? Patronage, family network or membership of a clique??? So in this situation we have a "meritocracy," not based on academic, psychological and physical qualifications but on who you know? Is nepotism somehow better than racism?

You may be interested in reading this comment that was submitted on August 7, 2009 to the blog "Set Our People Free..." The writer was protesting on behalf of a group of applicants of East Indian descent who were of the opinion that they had been discriminated against and rejected, despite having successfully completed all stages of the TTPS application process. I have no idea if their suspicions were justified but I felt frustrated on their behalf that there appeared to be no office to which they could turn for assistance.

Intelligent debate, and not these knee jerk reactions that we have been witnessing, has to be the only way forward. The way I see it, victory for one group is a victory for all when it comes to securing people's confidence in their homeland and its commitment to guarding their rights. If we cannot see that, it is because we have something to gain from maintaining a status quo which does not allow every creed and race to find an equal place.

I support the TTPS as I have said repeatedly and I want it to be as thorough as possible when it comes to policing itself.

UWI study: Ethnic imbalance in Police Service spans decades.
By Camille Bethel
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Apr 2, 2011 at 10:38 PM ECT
"The ethnic imbalance within the upper echelons of the Police Service, that favours Afro-Trinidadians, was pushed centre stage by Police Service Commission chairman Nizam Mohammed two Fridays ago at a Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting at the Parliament, when he stated his intention to fix the disparity. But this is not the first time this issue has been raised.

A 1994 report entitled "Ethnicity and Employment Practices in Trinidad and Tobago" Volume I—(The Public Sector) compiled by the Centre for Ethnic Studies, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, gives insight into the very controversial issue by looking at the ethnic composition of the Public Services, including the Police Service, and the differences in the rate of mobility for each ethnic group over three decades.

Obtained from the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), UWI, St Augustine, this report is the first survey that was compiled on the issue and looks candidly at the employment practices in the Public Sector as it relates to Afro and Indo Trinidadians.

Dr John La Guerre, now chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, was the Centre co-ordinator at the time and held the responsibility for the direction of the survey and its analysis.

The analysis is seen within the executive summary and recommendations section of the 328 page report where it is noted that the Police Service was one of two areas, the other being nursing, where appointments were shrouded in ethnic controversy.

Part IV of the report, looks at the "National Security Services" data from the Public Service for the years 1970, 1980 and 1992 and attempts to determine whether the hiring and promotional practices gave equal opportunity to all citizens, regardless of their race or ethnicity, and whether there were any changes in the ethnic make-up of those hired over that time span.

In the report this is described as a difficult task, since records had been lost or destroyed in the Police Headquarters in the 1990 attempted coup, but the Centre managed to put together a "fairly complete statistical overview".

The figures obtained showed that in 1970 of a total of 149 sergeants only six were Indo-Trinidadian and out of a total of 274 police officers only nine were Indo-Trinidadian. This was despite the fact that "for the rank of sergeant and higher the Indo-Trinidadians tended to be younger than their Afro-Trinidadian counterparts with the exception of the sole Indo-Trinidadian Assistant Superintendent of Police", the report stated.

Ten years later, only 22 of the 244 sergeants were Indo-Trinidadian; there was only one Indo-Trinidadian who held the rank of Assistant Superintendent out of 47; there were nine Assistant Commissioners of police of which only one was Indo-Trinidadian and out of a total of 1,282 police officers only 180 of them represented the Indo-Trinidadian population.

The report states that by 1980 the population percentage of Indo Trinidadians had grown to 40.7.

"Given equal representation, the expected ratio in the police force in 1980 is 40.7. Indo-Trinidadians at this time were grossly under represented in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service," the report states.

By 1992, the strength of the Police Service had more than doubled and there was an increase in the intake of Indo-Trinidadians, yet the number of Indo-Trinidadians represented still remained less than their Afro-Trinidadian counterparts.

Out of a total of 4,672 police officers only 1,153 were Indo-Trinidadian, there were 43 sergeants out of a total of 282, and six of the 47 Assistant Superintendents were Indo-Trinidadian.

"Apparent discrepancies between policy and fact are readily observable on looking at recruitment figures. The declared policy in the selection process for police officers is based on qualifications, both physical and academic, as well as character. However, the records of recruitment over the past 13 years, for both male and female applicants, reveal that Afro-Trinidadian applicants have an advantage of 1.5 to 2 over their Indo-Trinidadian counterparts."

However, the report said there may have been another factor that influenced the low number of Indo-Trinidadian females applying for the Police Service.

"It was felt, and possibly still is felt, that the Police Service was not a suitable place of work for an Indo-Trinidadian female."

Although in 1992 to 1993 more Indo-Trinidadian women put in applications only two of the 40 women recruited into the Police Service were Indo-Trinidadian.

"All things being equal, and given the fact that Indo-Trinidadian candidates are generally better qualified academically, it should follow that the number of Indo-Trinidadians selected for training should be higher. It seems that they tend to do less well in the interview than do their Afro-Trinidadian counterparts," the report states.

This phenomenon was explained as having resulted from the fact that at that time the members of the interviewing panel were all Afro-Trinidadians themselves.

Looking at promotion within the Police Service, the then chairman of the Police Service Commission who was interviewed for the report was recorded as having indicated that promotion within the Police Service was based on merit and creditability in performance.

"Regulation 20 of the Police Service Commission regulations states that eligibility for promotion takes into account inter alia, seniority, experience, educational qualifications, merit and ability together with the relative efficiency of all officers."

However, aspects of the promotional process were seen as less than transparent and left room for dishonesty and discriminatory practices, the report states.

It states that "one of the major findings of the investigation was the tendency for Indians to be heavily under represented at the higher reaches of the public sector, particularly in the central public services" there was no doubt that historical and cultural factors would explain an ethnic imbalance.

"In Trinidad and Tobago, over the years, a peculiar division of labour had developed according to which the Indians were allocated to the agricultural sector, the Whites to the higher reaches of the economy and the Africans to the public services of the country. With time these ideas hardened into conceptions of preserves.

"It's persistence into the present is, however, also due to the operation of the seniority principle and the possible influence of the political will in appointment beyond a certain range," the report states.

So although "the perception of discrimination did exist, were felt strongly, and materially affected the dedication and productivity of a number of the officers from both major ethnic groups" in the end many of the cases of racial discrimination that were raised could not be substantiated with the available evidence.

"It was found that in a number of cases, what was perceived as 'racial discrimination' was in fact the end result of a number of factors such as patronage, family network or membership of a clique," the report states.

I also want to congratulate the National Joint Action Committee for their confidence inspiring, measured and thoughtful response to this matter. I present their statement below because this is the attitude that is required for any meaningful meeting of minds. Anything less, in my view, supports continued silence, suspicion and resentment.

Nizam Mohammed Issue
Posted by National Joint Action Committee at 4:34 PM
The People's Blog | Thursday, March 31, 2011

"The National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) considers that the recent statement made by Mr. Nizam Mohammed, chairman of the Police Service Commission at the hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Friday 25th March 2011 was of a nature that could only be considered insensitive.
His statement about the Police Service that there were more persons of African descent in leadership positions, as opposed to their East Indian colleagues gave the impression that there was discrimination against the East Indian population with regard to their entry into and their promotions within the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service.
NJAC finds such impressions are not accurate because there has always been a marked reluctance of certain sectors of the population to join the Police Service. The local Police Service has long had a stigma attached to it and at an earlier time, a substantial amount of police men were recruited from our neighbouring islands, in particular, Barbados, Grenada and St Vincent.
We find that Mr. Mohammed’s statement to be even more insensitive in the context of the current environment where there are provocations of ethnic tension brought on by political rhetoric that does not speak well for the future development of the good communal relations in Trinidad & Tobago.
In the light of the frequent mention about race in Trinidad & Tobago NJAC asserts that this is the ideal time to mandate a national body to investigate all our country’s institutions, whether public or private, in order to progressively eliminate all and any manifestations of racial bias in employment."

Bravo!, Bravo!, Bravo!!!

"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!