2010 - T&T in "Hindus in South Asia & the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights, 2010."

2011-06-21 HAF's recommendations and the list of references have now been added below the extract. Several of the HAF's references links were outdated so I tried to update them all, If you encounter any dead links, let me know if you need to see the source.

The Human Rights Report 2010 of the Hindu American Foundation, "Hindus in South Asia & the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights, 2010" is now available.

The executive summary begins:
"The human rights of Hindu citizens are consistently violated in eight countries and one state in India where Hindus constitute a minority: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Fiji, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad and Tobago. This report documents the ongoing violations of human rights in these countries..." Read more.

I have extracted the section on Trinidad and Tobago and the recommendations of the pasted them below:
Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora:
A Survey of Human Rights 2010


Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
© CIA World Factbook

Area: 5,128 square kilometers

Population: 1,228,691 (July 2010 estimate)

Religions: Roman Catholic 26%, Hindu 22.5%, Anglican 7.8%, Baptist 7.2%, Pentecostal 6.8%, Muslim 5.8%, Seventh Day Adventist 4%, other Christian 5.8%, other 10.8%, unspecified 1.4%, none 1.9% (2000 census). Almost all Hindus are of Indian descent. Ethnic groups: Indian (South Asian) 40%, African 37.5%, mixed 20.5%, other 1.2%, unspecified 0.8% (2000 census)

Languages: English (official), Caribbean Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), French, Spanish, Chinese

Location: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Venezuela cdxxi


Introduction


Trinidad and Tobago got its first female Prime Minister in 2010. She is Kamla Persad-Bissessar, 59, who is of Indian and Hindu descent. She heads a five-party coalition called

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the People’s Partnership that came to power in May 2010 ousting Patrick Manning, whose People’s National Movement (PNM) had ruled the country for five decades, backed by citizens of African descent. The new Prime Minister said she would make the country a successful multicultural society. Citizens of Indian descent, who had been marginalized, browbeaten, and sometimes terrorized by criminal gangs, now look forward to their rightful place in this multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. In a symbolic and substantial decision, the new leadership gave TT $1 million for the celebration of the Hindu festival, Diwali, whereas the previous government, the previous year had given just TT $10,000. The biggest Hindu/Indian celebration, which costs nearly TT $15 million, thus got a major boost. As the new Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said, “People think of Trinidad as a predominantly African country… We want to rectify this mis-perception. The majority is of Indian descent.” Previously there was “discrimination manifest in subtle ways,” he said, one of which was the allocation of state funding.cdxxii

Legally, the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago guarantees the right to equality of treatment and freedom of religious belief and observance. Furthermore, the government limits the number of foreign missionaries allowed in the country to 30 per denomination at any given time. In response to wariness of a repeated colonial experience, missionaries must meet strict entry standards and cannot remain in the country for more than three years per visit. There are no reports of forced religious conversion. The Government supports the activities of the Inter-Religious Organization (IRO), an interfaith coordinating committee for public outreach, governmental and media relations, and policy implementation. It also provides the prayer leader for several official events, such as the opening of Parliament and the annual court term.

Ministers, Members of Parliament, and public figures represent every religious group and denomination and the broad spectrum of religious beliefs in the country. Religious groups possess the same rights and obligations as most legal entities, can own land, and hire employees.

The Government subsidizes both public and religiously affiliated schools. It permits religious instruction in public schools, setting aside a time each week when any religious organization with an adherent in the school can provide an instructor. Attendance at these classes is voluntary and the religious groups represented are diverse. Parents may enroll their children in private schools for religious reasons. As a result, there are thriving Hindu, Muslim, and Christian schools. The Government established public holidays for every religious group with a large following. The Government also grants

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financial and technical assistance to various organizations to support religious festivals and celebrations, including Indian Arrival Day.

This report differentiates between religious and racial discrimination. Discrimination against Hindus and racial tension between Indians and Afro-Carribean are evident. However, it is difficult to distinguish specific religious persecution given that 90% of citizens of Indian descent are Hindu. To honor accuracy in documentation, this report attempts to resist conflation.

Despite legal protections and the value of religious pluralism, Hindus (as Indians) in Trinidad and Tobago experienced discrimination in political representation, resource distribution, and employment opportunities. Social persecution and a lack of religious freedom were also issues faced by Hindus, and Hindus have been disproportionately targeted for physical violence and harassment.cdxxiii With Kamla Persad-Bissessar heading the new government, it is expected that the socio-cultural-political dynamic will see positive changes in the country.

Dr. Eric Williams, the country’s first Prime Minister referred to Indians as the “recalcitrant minority.” The racial and religious animosity between black (Christian and Muslim) and brown (Hindu, Indian) was exacerbated over the years and manifested particularly in the media and government. Prominent Hindu leader and Secretary General of the Hindu Maha Sabha, Satnarayan Maharaj, said in 2006: “This year marks 50 years since Trinidad and Tobago attained the right to internal self-government (1956- 2006). Out of this 50-year period an Indian-based political party held power for six years. The People’s National Movement (PNM) ruled for 30 consecutive years without appointing a single Hindu as a government minister. The cry of rural neglect, alienation, marginalization and discrimination affected the political psychology of Indians as they lost hope of ever winning a general election.” In the book, “The Indian Struggle for Justice and Equality against Black Racism in Trinidad and Tobago (1956-1962),” the author H.P. Singh wrote, “The 1956 election was won by the PNM headed by Eric Williams on the institution of a resurgent Negro nationalism. Since then, Indians in Trinidad have been subjected to all sorts of humiliations, degradation and ignominy by PNM racialism.” cdxxiv

In August 2008, High Court judge Herbert Volney is reported to have remarked, “You must be from the Christian right and must be seen to be involved whether as Chancellor, pastor, singer of all the psalms in the incantations of religious fervour.” He claimed that for a judge to climb to the Court of Appeal, “you must know your

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benediction and must be known for your piety.” In a nation where Hindus constitute 22.5% of the population, such statements provide evidence for the Christian-supremacist administration and governance in the country in the past six decades. cdxxv

In July 2009, opposition MP Tim Gopeesingh charged that the government was carrying out a policy of political discrimination that was targeting one particular ethnic grouping, meaning Indo-Trinidadians.cdxxvi In August, in an editorial, an Afro-Trinidadian, Selwyn Ryan wrote a scathing article condemning Gopeesingh’s statement.cdxxvii Ryan lamented the imbalance in the medical profession and concluded that the lack of trust and discomfort of the Afro-Trinidadian community was a “very good reason why, in a society such as this, it was inadvisable to have a health system in which 80-plus per cent of the doctors are of one ethnicity.” Indo-Trinidadians form the bulk of the doctors in Trinidad and Tobago. Devant Maharaj, chairman of the Indo-Trinbago Equality Councl (ITEC), responded that the Ryan editorial was selective and did not answer the systematic discrimination against Indo-Trinidadians in the areas of nursing, state housing, military, police, public service, and elsewhere. He argued that the number of Indo-Trinidadian doctors had neither to do with discrimination or design, but because they were there based on merit and education.cdxxviii What led to this exchange was the overt discrimination in the awarding of the position of consultant urologist. Dr. Fuad Khan, an Indo-Trinidadian, said he was bypassed for a senior consultancy position last year for “a less experienced Nigerian doctor” who was working under a senior urologist. He said that senior urologist and another East Indian doctor “were forced out of the hospital.”cdxxix

Trinidad and Tobago is described as a “plural society” since the islands’ population consists of two major ethnic groups: Africans make up approximately 39.6% of the country’s population, and South Asians (East Indians) make up roughly 40.3% of the population. On October 22, 1970 the Trinidad Express newspaper reported a recent study which stated, “[O]f the 100 employees of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, 84 were Afro-Trinidadians, 10 were Indo-Trinidadians, 3 were of Chinese descent, 2 were of Portuguese descent, and 1 was white.” This unequal employment situation was still in evidence in 1989, when the Trinidad Express published statistics on June 25 showing that of the total number of persons employed in all government organizations, 29% were Indo-Trinidadians. In the police force, Regiment of the Defense Force, Coast Guard, and Port Authority, respectively, the percentage of Indo-Trinidadians was 25%, 5%, 16%, and 6%. It is also important to note that according to Census data, Indo-Trinidadians at the time made up 40.3% of the country's population, while Afro-Trinidadians made 39.6%.”cdxxx The same report pointed out that so far as

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professional positions were concerned, Indo-Trinidadians reached and surpassed the equity ratio in the areas of medicine and finance, “but that the criteria for employment and advancement in these two areas was clearly technical skill,” supporting Devant Maharaj’s argument above.

In October 2009, Maharaj filed a constitution motion against the State challenging the failure and/or refusal to appoint a new Integrity Commission. The motion was filed in the San Fernando Supreme Court. In his affidavit, Maharaj referred to several letters ITEC had written the President complaining about the unsatisfactory state of affairs and suggesting prominent persons who should be approached to serve on the Commission. Maharaj was concerned that the President maybe perceived as part of a political conspiracy to protect the ruling PNM from further investigation into allegations of corruption and other matters.cdxxxi

History/Background cdxxxii

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean. The country consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and 21 smaller islands. Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the main islands; Tobago is much smaller, comprising about 6% of the total area and 4% of the population.

Originally settled by Amerindians of South American origin at least 7,000 years ago, Trinidad and Tobago was occupied by Arawakan-speaking and Cariban-speaking peoples at the time of European contact in 1498. A history of slavery and indentureship has left the country with a population of African, Indian, mixed-race, European, Middle Eastern, and Chinese descent. All these groups have left a significant impact on the country’s national culture.

Britain consolidated its hold on both islands during the Napoleonic Wars and combined them into the colony of Trinidad and Tobago in 1899. As a result of these colonial struggles, Amerindian, Spanish, French, and English place names are all common in the country. African slaves and Chinese, Portuguese, Indian, and free African indentured laborers arrived to supply labor in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Emigration from Barbados and Lesser Antilles, Venezuela, Syria, and Lebanon also affected the ethnic makeup of the country. Trinidad and Tobago elected for independence in 1962. In 1976, the country severed its links with the British monarchy and became a republic within the Commonwealth.

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Trinidad and Tobago is a democratic republic. The Head of State is the President, and the Head of Government is the Prime Minister. The President is elected by an electoral college consisting of the full membership of both houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President.

Political parties are generally divided along ethnic lines, with the People’s National Movement (PNM) supported primarily by Africans and the United National Congress (UNC) drawing its constituency largely from Indians. In the recent past, there have been three elections in three years contested by these two ethnic-based parties. The party lines are not completely polarized along racial lines. In most recent elections, the PNM fielded Indian candidates for election, while the main financial backer of the UNC is an Afro-Trinidadian.

In 2002, the PNM won with 51% of the vote thereby, replacing Panday with Manning as Trinidadian Prime Minister. Recent elections in November 2007 were also won by the PNM under Manning. PNM continues to play racial politics. In one editorial, Satnarayan Maharaj said that the Ministry of Culture spent some $4.4 million on “Emancipation Day Dinner” while only spending some $800,000 on Indian Arrival Day – with “Emancipation” acknowledging the arrival and slavery of people of African descent. He also pointed out that despite the PNM being in political office since 1956, Afro-Trinidadians continued to agitate for affirmative action and preferential treatment. “From secret scholarships to changes in admissions criteria at the university, the affirmative action programme continues,” he accused. Worse yet, the PNM continues to play the race card in creating fear among Afro-Trinidadians. Prof. Cudjoe, who spoke at the Emancipation Day dinner, warned of “turbulent times” for people of African origin “because they are now a minority in this country…If ethnic trends in voting continue, it is likely that in the next ten years we might see that same pattern that has emerged in Guyana in which the dominant group will hold power in perpetuity.” The same Cudjoe, in 2006, said, “So that all the turmoil that we see in our society today not only represents a relentless struggle on the part of the East Indians to dominate the society; it also suggests that the agents of their group are prepared to utilise any means—be they legal, political, academic or religious—to achieve ethnic dominance.”cdxxxiii

In the 2010 elections, the People’s Partnership won 29 seats and the PNM 12. The election was called two years ahead of time. During the PNM regime Trinidad and Tobago experienced high rates of crime and public corruption.cdxxxiv

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Status of Human Rights, 2010

In the past, Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago faced a multitude of human rights issues, including physical attacks, temple desecration, economic/political discrimination, and the inequitable distribution of government funds. The country continued to experience a high rate of crime. As many as 485 murders and four kidnappings were recorded in 2010. In January 2010, there were 44 murders. Government was blamed for lack of purpose and attention in controlling this high rate of crime.cdxxxv

Religious Freedom

Temples/Festivals
There are over 300 Hindu temples in Trinidad and Tobago. There have been recent incidents of vandalism and desecration of Hindu temples. The following includes recent examples of discrimination towards Hindu festivals, religious practices and places of worship.

According to a UNHCR report, in May 2009, students of a nondenominational public school in south Trinidad participated in a Hindu prayer service. The students planted symbolic flags on the school grounds appealing for success in their examinations. The Ministry of Education ordered school authorities to remove the flags. The decision of the Ministry offended some students and teachers, who declared that they would boycott classes and stand guard around the symbolic prayer flags. The school principal eventually removed the flags. More than half of the 1,500 student body is Hindu.cdxxxvi

Although there are several Hindu temples in Trinidad, Hindu temples were non-existent on the small island of Tobago. Until recently, the Tobago House of Assembly refused to allow the Maha Sabha to construct a mandir (temple) on land bought on the island. Churches were funded and the Assembly promoted a gospel concert on the island while refusing to fund a kirtan (Hindu religious concert).cdxxxvii Letters to Editors complaining about the overt discrimination against Hindus had little impact on the racist and bigoted assemblymen.cdxxxviii After a five-year struggle, the first Hindu mandir in Tobago finally began construction in the summer of 2007, with a $250,000 grant from the National Commission for Self Help Limited (NCSH).cdxxxix

Hindus have also faced challenges with religious festivals, including yearly Diwali celebrations and Ramleela (religious performance in honor of revered Lord Rama). The largest Diwali celebrations are held each year at the Diwali Nagar, Chaguanas, in Trinidad. This event has grown from a modest affair to an international fixture in the

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Hindu calendar, attracting Hindus from around the world. Each night, over a 14-day period, thousands of Hindus and non-Hindus congregate at this famous location to enjoy and participate in pujas (sacred rituals), concerts, art, craft and social activities. In 2006 and 2007, however, the police refused to provide additional security unless they were paid. During the first few nights when the police stayed away, several vehicles were stolen and vandalized. It was only after protests by Hindus that security was increased.

Furthermore, during the past few years, Ramleela festivities have been the targets of violence. For example, in 2005, vandals desecrated religious items and destroyed tents, props and fences used in Ramleela celebrations, as well as the sacred jhandi (flag to mark the completion of puja or worship ceremony) at McBean Village, Couva. Consequently, many Hindus were afraid of attending the celebrations at McBean.cdxl

In several parts of country, Hindus have even been prevented from holding Diwali and Ramleela celebrations. Recently, the head of the Sugarcane Feeds Centre refused permission for workers to hold their annual Diwali celebrations. And in another instance, Hindu police officers were prohibited from celebrating Diwali at their workplaces in South Trinidad.

Hindus complained of the reduction in state funding of the celebration of Holi. The state reduced funding from approximately $12,500 (TT$75,000) in 2007, to $10,000 (TT$60,000) in 2008 and finally to $800 (TT$5,000) in 2009. The group returned the 2009 grant in protest.cdxli

General Violence

Violence directed against Indians and Hindus is also not uncommon. Indians and Hindus are verbally and physically assaulted by mobs of non-Indians from neighboring villages and from the northern urban areas of Trinidad where the population is predominantly African. For example, the Hindus of Felicity were recently attacked by Afro-Trinidadians from the adjacent village of Boot Hill. The Hindu residents of Felicity were unable to commute to work and schools after Afro-Trinidadians from Boot Hill blocked the main road with piles of burning debris and broken bottles.cdxlii

Social Persecution

Societal discrimination against Hindus is also prevalent in several areas, including the portrayal of Hindus in the media. Hindus fear a systematized attempt to degrade

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Hindus in the media and exclude them from areas of influence.cdxliii For instance, photographs in tourism brochures depict Trinidad and Tobago as a nation whose population is predominantly of African descent. Indians are rarely represented in advertisements in radio, television, or print media.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which annually publishes a list of employees for service awards, routinely discriminates against citizens of Hindu and Indian descent. Moreover, the process itself for award granting is prejudiced. The highest award for public service in Trinidad is entitled the “Trinity Cross.” In a June 2006 comment, Attorney Anand Ramlogan said, “The Trinity Cross was perceived as a manifestation or symptom of what was, in substance if not form, a Christian state that tolerated non-Christians. It was a powerful psychological reminder of the fact that we were merely ‘tolerated.’ The objection was not purely religious; it had a political and psychological dimension. It had to do with the sense of belonging and being able to identify with the newly adopted motherland far away from India.”

The Maha Saba, a Hindu organization, along with a Muslim group, instituted legal action against the State regarding the use of the title “Trinity Cross.” In reference to the case, Justice Peter Jamadar, stated: “This general prohibition against non-discrimination thus prohibits laws that differentiate between people on the basis of their inherent personal characteristics and attributes. Such discrimination undermines the dignity of persons, severely fractures peace and erodes freedom. Courts will not readily allow laws to stand, which have the effect of discriminating on the basis of the stated personal characteristics.”cdxliv Unfortunately, no action has yet been taken on the removal of the title “Trinity Cross.”

In October 2009, the ITEC drew the attention the Minister of National Security and the Chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission regarding the denial by the police to allow the annual Jahajee Massacre Walk that was scheduled for October 25, 2009. The Jahajee Walk, held over the past five years without incident, commemorates the Jahajee massacre of October 30, 1884. The massacre, also known as the Hosay Riots, took place during the annual Hosay procession in San Fernando. The British colonial authorities fired on a large procession of indentured laborers who had been previously barred from entering the town. Some 22 Indo-Trinidadians people were killed and over 100 were injured in the attack by British police.cdxlv

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Institutional Discrimination

Institutional discrimination against Hindus and Indians in Trinidad and Tobago is rampant and includes economic/political discrimination, inequitable distribution of government funds, and prejudice in the education system.

The courts stepped in regarding the discrimination against two Hindu-Indian teachers. High Court judge Maureen Rajnauth Lee found that the Education Ministry had discriminated against two teachers, Vijesh Mahadeo and Vashti Maharaj. They had applied for teaching posts, but were turned down on the basis that they were not suitably qualified. Mahadeo discovered that two persons with the same level of qualifications were hired instead. In Maharaj's case, she failed an assessment for a higher teaching rank, but a colleague of hers was successful even though the person was less academically qualified. The Education Ministry did not even come to court to challenge the case against them.cdxlvi

Hindus have also faced discrimination in their attempts to obtain a broadcast license for a Hindu radio station. The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of Trinidad and Tobago (SDMS) was finally granted the license to broadcast as Radio Jaagriti on 102.7FM after a seven-year long legal battle. SDMS initiated their application in 1999, and it languished for seven years while the government awarded another group a radio frequency for its station. On July 4, 2006, SDMS was victorious in its appeal to the Privy Council based on the government’s consistent refusal to award the organization a radio license. In a landmark 19-page judgment, Lord Justice Mance said, “In light of the exceptional circumstances” of the discrimination, the Privy Council would order Trinidad and Tobago Attorney General John Jeremie to do all that is necessary to ensure that a license is issued forthwith to the Hindu organization. The State was also ordered to pay SDMS's legal costs in all the courts.cdxlvii In September 2009, the decade old discrimination case ended with an award to the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of almost $3 million. The compensation was ordered in a September 22 order by Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh, who said, “What this case showed was discrimination, plain and simple.”cdxlviii

Economic/Political Discrimination
Despite compromising approximately 40% of the population, Indians are severely underrepresented in government sectors jobs, including the Protective Services, the Civil Service, State Companies, Statutory Boards and Commission, the High Commissions and Diplomatic Missions, the Central Bank and Board, and executive membership at decision-making levels of the State. This began to slowly change following 2002.

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One report found that Indians were “heavily under-represented, except in areas where merit and technical criteria must prevail, as in the judicial and professional sectors, where Indians were more than adequately represented.” For instance, prior data from the Service Commissions Department indicated that there are only 18 Indians serving as department heads in the nation, compared to 87 non-Indians, and there are no Indians on the executive of the police service or army.cdxlix

According to one observer, the “Indo-Trinidadian community is witnessing a ‘shock and awe’ programme with this state-sanctioned policy that directs significant state resources to one ethnic group at the exclusion of other groups. The lowering of qualifications for state employment, house padding, the establishment of the University of Trinidad and Tobago, the elevation of criminal elements to community leaders…are all examples of the programme conceived to push the Indian out of the space that is shared in Trinidad and Tobago.”cdl

Inequitable Distribution of Government Funds
For several years, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) has sought to secure lands from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the Ministry of Planning, Housing and the Environment for construction of a temple without success. The Maha Sabha has lands in the Carnbee area, but the THA declared that temple construction is prohibited in residential areas. SDMS pointed out that there is a Christian Church about 150 feet away from the land it possesses. They also pointed out that in other residential areas such as Bethany and Four Roads Bon Accord churches have been built recently.cdli

The Trinidad and Tobago government frequently discriminates against particular ethnic and religious groups in the distribution of public funds. In a recent Joint Select Committee of Parliament meeting, chaired by Independent Senator Parvatee Anmolsingh-Mahabir, the National Social Development Programme (NSDP), a State agency, was exposed for its blatant discrimination against Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, and Anglicans, while favoring predominantly Afro-Trinidadian Christian denominations. The Indo-Trinbago Equality Council (ITEC) also alleged discrimination in the distribution of land to Hindu religious groups. According to the Indo-Trinbago Equality Council (ITEC), the Tobago House of Assembly allocated land to the Baptist Church in order to build a place of worship and gave $9 million to fund the Gospel Fest, while the Hindu community in Tobago continued to be marginalized.cdlii

In addition, millions of taxpayers’ dollars have been spent on St Peter’s Baptist Church,

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the Jesus Elam Ministries, Febeau Open Bible, Revival Time Assembly, Gospelfest, and other small politically affiliated churches, while Hindu celebrations, such as Ramleela, have been denied adequate funding.cdliii

Indo-Trinidadians believe that there is an ethnic agenda in the Government’s distribution of the largesse of the State, including the allocation of public housing under the National Housing Authority (Home Development Corporation) and the disbursement of compensation following natural disasters, disproportionately benefiting Afro-Trinidadians. For example, $36 million was provided to flood victims from Port City and Toco, who received immediate help, while nothing was provided for south or central farmers – almost 100% of them Hindus - who lost millions in flood damage.cdliv

Educational Discrimination
Discrimination against Hindus is also present in the educational system. Although Hinduism is the second largest religion in Trinidad and Tobago, there are no sixth-form Hindu secondary schools to prepare students for university, while there are eighteen Christian and two Muslim sixth-form facilities. Moreover, “certain denominational schools are forcing all students to study the religion of the school, without introducing the appropriate religious instruction for students of other religions…The Ministry of Education needs to correct these discriminatory practices, especially in the denominational school,” said David Singh, a community leader, in a letter to the Trinidad Guardian Newspaper.”cdlv

In many primary and secondary schools and colleges, Hindu children are prevented from practicing their religion and debarred from wearing Hindu clothing, rakshas (protective amulet), and other symbols. For instance, in March 2008, Hindu high school students were prevented from wearing the raksha, “a Hindu religious symbol consisting of a colored string worn on the wrist during the performance of sacred rituals and removed within seven days after the prayers,” and were forced to remove them by school security guards. The Ministry of Education later apologized to the students.cdlvi

And in October 2006, an Anglican School in Fyzabad, South Trinidad withdrew permission previously granted to students for celebrating Diwali despite it being a national holiday. Students were also banned from wearing rakshas.cdlvii

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Violations of Constitution and International Law

Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad is a democratic state that “acknowledge[s] the supremacy of God [and] faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms.” Chapter 1 of the Constitution recognizes an individual’s right to “equality before the law” and freedom of religion, thought, and expression. It also guarantees the “freedom of the press,” although it does not expand upon what this freedom entails. Furthermore, the Constitution states that Parliament may not “deprive a person of the right to a fair hearing,” nor deprive a person of the right “to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”cdlviii Despite these protections, Hindus continue to experience attacks on their places of worship, government sanctioned discrimination and societal abuse.

Violations of International Human Rights Law

Trinidad and Tobago signed the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on June 7, 1967 and ratified it on October 4, 1973. Its accession to the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights took place on December 21, 1978. The Trinidadian government has repeatedly violated these UN Covenants, however, by failing to protect its Hindu and Indian citizens and discriminating against them on ethnic and religious grounds.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Trinidad’s Constitution provides for “equality before the law” and freedom of religion. However, Indians and Hindus have faced systematic discrimination and harassment/abuse. With the change in government in 2010 and an Indian/Hindu heading the new government, it is expected that pressure will ease on the Indian/Hindu population. However, it is incumbent upon the government to pay attention to enforcing civil and criminal laws and to protect all citizens. Trinidadian leaders should discourage racial and religious stereotypes and hate speech; recognize Hindus and Indians as equal partners in the rule and governance of the nation; and distance themselves from Christian fundamentalists promoting Christianization of the government and hatred against Hindus and Hinduism.


RECOMMENDATIONS
[Taken from the Executive Summary]

REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

The country is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious island nation with Hindu Indo- Trinidadians and Afro-Trinidadians accounting for most of the population. Roman Catholics and Hindus make up the largest religious groups.

The racial and religious animosity between Afro-Caribbean and Indo-Caribbeans has been exacerbated over the years. Hindus are frequently subjected to discrimination, hate speech, and acts of violence.

Indo-Trinidadians have been systematically denied government benefits and employment in public sector jobs. Hindu institutions and festivals are subject to acts of violence and are denied equal access to public funds.

A new government, headed by Kamla Persad Bissessar of Indian descent, took office in May 2010. It is expected that nearly six decades of discrimination against Indo- Caribbeans will come to an end.

HAF Recommendations:

1) The United States should encourage the current Trinidad government to abide by the country’s Constitution and guarantee safety and security to Hindus and Indo- Trinidadians.

2) The Trinidadian government should practice parity and equality in government response to and support of various ethnic and religious groups.

3) Trinidad must do more to protect Hindus from violence, hate speech as well as racial and religious stereotyping. Furthermore, the government must safeguard Hindu temples from attacks.

4) The Trinidadian government must prosecute Christian fundamentalists who promote hatred against Hindus and Hinduism.


REFERENCES

cdxxi “Trinidad and Tobago,” CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/td.html

cdxxii Kaufman, J.E. (November 17, 2010). “In Trinidad, an ascendant Hindu culture celebrates Diwali,” ArtInfo, http://blogs.artinfo.com/inview/2010/11/17/in-trinidad-an-ascendant-hindu-culture-celebrates-diwali/

cdxxiii http://jahajeedesi.com/ References 173 © Hindu American Foundation 2010

cdxxiv Maharaj, Sat (March 30, 2005). “The success of Indians,” The Trinidad Guardian, http://legacy.guardian.co.tt/archives/2005-04-04/sat.html

cdxxv Maharaj, D. (August 4, 2008). Letter addressed to Prof. John La Guerre, Chairman, Equal Opportunity Commission, Trinidad and Tobago.

cdxxvi “Indians being discriminated against in T & T,” (July 20, 2009), Stabroek News, http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/news/stories/07/20/indians-being-discriminated-against-in-tt/

cdxxvii Ryan, S. (August 16, 2009). “A gaseous mixture of racial hyperconsciousness,” Trinidad and Tobago Express, Article available within this blog post at Trin: http://trin.typepad.com/main/2009/08/the-selwyns-drs-in-denial-drs-ignoramus.html

cdxxviii Maharaj, D. (August 24, 2009). “The Selwyns: Doctors in denial? Doctors Ignoramus?” TRIN, http://trin.typepad.com/main/2009/08/the-selwyns-drs-in-denial-drs-ignoramus.html

cdxxix Rambally, R. K. (July 19, 2009). “Khan: I am a victim of discrimination,” Guardian, http://test.guardian.co.tt/?q=news/general/2009/07/19/khan-i-am-victim-discrimination

cdxxx Bissessar, A. M. (Spring 2009). “Challenges facing senior public servants in a plural society,” Enrepreneur, http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/198412913.html

cdxxxi Maharaj, D. (October 7, 2009). “ITEC President sues AG over Integrity Commission.”

cdxxxii “Trinidad and Tobago,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinidad_and_Tobago

cdxxxiii Maharaj, S. (August 13, 2009). “Twisting the truth,” Trindidad and Tobago Guardian, http://www.caribdaily.com/article/191713/twisting-the-truth/

cdxxxiv Hutchinson--‐Jafar, Linda (May 22, 2010). “Election gamble may backfire on Trinidad’s Manning,” Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/05/22/us-trinidad-elections-preview- idUSTRE64L1J620100522

cdxxxv “Murder with impunity,” (February 1, 2010). Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, http://test.guardian.co.tt/?q=commentary/editorial/2010/02/01/murder-impunity

cdxxxvi UNHCR, “2009 Report on International Religious Freedom --Trinidad and Tobago,” http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,TTO,4562d94e2,4ae860ff67,0.html

cdxxxvii Sat Maharaj, “Ethnic Agenda in Caroni,” The Trinidad Guardian, November 30, 2006, http://legacy.guardian.co.tt/archives/2006-12-04/sat.html

cdxxxviii “Letters to the Editor,” (July 21, 2006). The Trinidad Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/2006-07-21/letters.

cdxxxix Cupid, Karl E. (April 19, 2007), "Tobago to Get Its First Hindu Mandir," Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,55704.html References 174 © Hindu American Foundation 2010

cdxl “Trinidad Hindus win battle to broadcast FM radio station,” NRI Online, February 08, 2007, http://www.nriol.com/content/snippets/snippet1104.asp

cdxli UNHCR, “2009 Report on International Religious Freedom --‐ Trinidad and Tobago,” http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,TTO,4562d94e2,4ae860ff67,0.html

cdxlii http://jahajeedesi.blogspot.com/

cdxliii Sat Maharaj, Trinidad Guardian, August 2006

cdxliv Answers.com., The Trinity Cross Judgment, http://www.answers.com/topic/peter-jamadar

cdxlv Julien, J. (October 25, 2009). “Jahajee walk deemed illegal by police,” Trinidad and Tobago Express, http://www.seiell.com/wordpress/2009/11/jahajee-walk-deemed-illegal-by-police/

cdxlvi “Discrimination against teachers Vijesh Mahadeo and Vashti Maharaj,” (May 3, 2009), http://trinidad-tobago.blogspot.com/2009/05/discrimination-against-teachers-vijesh.html

cdxlvii “Trinidad Hindus win battle to broadcast FM radio station,” NRI Online, February 08, 2007, http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:F4_q6yDGK1cJ:www.nriol.com/content/snippets/snippet1104.asp+Trinidad+Hindus+win+battle+to+broadcast+FM+radio+station,%E2%80%9D+NRI+Online,+February+08,+2007&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ca&source=www.google.ca

cdxlviii Charan, R. (October 4, 2009). “Big bucks for Mahasabha,” Trinidad News, http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=161540088

cdxlix http://jahajeedesi.blogspot.com/

cdl Sat Maharaj, Trinidad Guardian, June 8, 2006
http://legacy.guardian.co.tt/archives/2006-06-08/sat.html

cdli Maharaj, D. (December 5, 2008). Letter addressed to Prof. John La Guerre, Chairman, Equal Opportunity Commission, Trinidad and Tobago.

cdlii Ramjeet, Oscar, “Trinidad Equality Council Alleges Discrimination in Land Distribution,” Caribbean Net News, December 3, 2008, http://www.caribbeannetnews.com/trinidad/trinidad.php?news_id=12621&start=40&category_id=17

cdliii Minutes of the Senate, Trinidad and Tobago, March 08, 2005, http://www.ttparliament.org/hansard/senate/2005/hs20050308.pdf

cdliv Sat Maharaj, “Ethnic Agenda in Caroni,” The Trinidad Guardian, November 30, 2006, http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/2006-11-30/sat.html

cdlv David Singh, St. Augustine, Trinidad, in a letter to the Trinidad Guardian newspaper http://legacy.guardian.co.tt/archives/2003-04-22/letters.html

cdlvi “Raksha Ban at School,” Trinidad Express, March 11, 2008. http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index.pl/article_news?id=161291478; State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Trinidad and Tobago, 2008, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/108541.htm References 175 © Hindu American Foundation 2010

cdlvii “Letters to the Editor,” The Trinidad Guardian, November 2, 2006, http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/2006-11-02/letters.html

cdlviii The Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, http://www.constitution.org/cons/trinidad.htm

................................................................................................................................
"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!
Guanaguanare

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dr Shehenaz Mohammed speaks with a forked tongue. She and others on the Medical Board of Trinidad and Tobago (MBTT), are in cahoots with Minister of Health Therese Baptiste-Cornelis committing the vile act of blocking Cuban-trained Trinbagonian Doctors from their jobs while T&T is in deliberate shortage of doctors.


"There are Trinbagonian Cuba-Trained Doctors who have graduated from Cuban Universities recognised by the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago before UWI was recognised. These Trinbagonian doctors speak English, Spanish and "Trini", served 1 year internships in both Cuba and in T&T, were graded "A" on the job, and were accepted for House Officer Doctor positions by Regional Health Authorities. Yet these Trinbagonian Cuba-Trained Doctors are experiencing hardships, due to harsh, oppressive, and discriminatory denial of access to work by Dr Shehenaz and others in the MBTT.


Dr Shehenaz and others in the MBTT are blocking Cuban doctors and Cuban-trained Trinbagonian doctors from work, to maintain the deliberate shortage of doctors in T&T public hospitals, so as to funnel patients into private hospitals, where they can be bled of their money.
...Isn't that racketeering?



The Minister of Health knows that she can have the urgently needed 275 doctors, 2,517 nurses and 161 pharmacists, in public hospitals on short notice from Cuba, yet she is supporting the MBTT racket, and parroting the lie (that Cuban doctors do not speak English) started by private hospital individuals.


Cuban doctors and & Cuban-trained Trinbagonian Doctors are being robbed of their jobs, and the people of T&T are being robbed of their free services in public hospitals by the MBTT !!!

Is the tail wagging the dog? Is the Minister of Health collaborating with a “gang of Indian mobsters protecting turf"? Isn't gangsterism a crime?

Guanaguanare said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for visiting and for your comment. Although I am not an insider and I do not have the evidence to support these allegations, I have seen similar comments being made elsewhere on the matter of the Cuban doctors. Since I am a firm believer in looking for the fire when there is smoke, I cannot dismiss these concerns.

Why is this matter not being addressed more aggressively in public and for the benefit of the public, by those who do have knowledge of the situation?

Similarly, although I must admit that I was somewhat "distracted" by the breathless, tattling "they-done-us-wrong" tone of this HAF report, I would not dismiss its claims. I want to see them publicised more widely before the national audience in T&T and I strongly believe that they should be addressed once and for all by OUR citizens, not the HAF, and certainly not the USA [Dame paciencia!] as suggested in their first recommendation.

Leaving things hidden or unresolved may serve the interests of certain groups but it does not serve the interests of the nation and each and every one of its citizens.

Any reports of human rights violations against ANY human being in this country should be exposed and investigated in public view. Intelligent and honest examination will determine whether they are real or imagined, and if real, whether they are persistent or a thing of the past.

I have no idea what the period under review is for this report, which describes itself as the 2011 report, but to use the report's curious descriptions, I know that a "brown (Hindu, Indian)" dominated government has been in power in this country since May 2010, voted in with the help of their adversaries - the "black [Christian and Muslim]" segment of the population. Perhaps the reports of our "progress" will finally make it to the HAF's 2017 catalogue?

Our PM said in her speech delivered at her Oath Taking ceremony at Knowsley Building, Port of Spain on May 26th, 2010:

"No more labels. No more prefixes of Afro and Indo nor North and South nor East West corridors. The election is over. It was a means towards an end. Now as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago we are all beneficiaries of the mandate given by the people. This is a victory for all citizens.

Our love of country must now move to the forefront."


Blessings

Anonymous said...

I had to stop reading this. This is like promoting racism. Just plain lies...It made me angry to read this. We are all Trinbagonian ppl. We are one. Hindus, Catholics, Negro or Indian. WE ARE ONE! Stop spreading these hateful things.

By reading your article, i'm sure if you were to hire a person who has equal qualifications and you had one candidate negro and the other indian...you would definitely choose the indian just cause your racist to people of other races.

I am disgusted by this article.

Guanaguanare said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

When you used the word "your" in your comment, I hope that you were addressing the Hindu American Foundation that published the report "Hindus in South Asia & the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights, 2010" from which this excerpt was taken. Or maybe you were responding to your fellow Trinbagonians who supplied the information to that organization?

You would have to be a complete stranger to this blog to assume that I am the author of this piece. My readers know that I do not identify with any one "race". This outlook is due in large part to my birthright as a Trinbagonian and a noweyrian and I constantly thank my ancestors for that liberation.

Although I do understand your reaction, [my own initial reaction was frustration] this is the situation that occurs when people do not make opportunities for synchronous dialogue. The distance between these published claims and the responses from people on the ground, more often than not encourages a negative activity/passivity. The passivity is brought about by the reader feeling assailed and perceiving no outlet through intelligent, honest discussion towards resolution of the situation, the reader withdraws into negative active anger, disappointment and hardening of prejudices about the other.

I have come to the conclusion that the reason why we bring children into this world is so that we will have new donkeys onto which we can load our old burdens. We do not learn. We do not make anything better.

Anonymous, you should not have turned away. You should have read the entire excerpt, if only to inform yourself so that you will know what is being handed down to many young children in our country.

If there is no opportunity for honest and intelligent dialogue at the national level, you take it to the more important level, your family and community. Let YOUR words and actions towards your fellow Trinbagonians always disprove the lie, or discourage the reality of any kind of unjust discrimination.

Blessings