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Panday knocks Indo-Trinidadians: Where’s your dignity, self-respect?
Referring indirectly to the appearance of Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osuna at the People’s Partnership rally on May 24, former prime minister Basdeo Panday said: “Indians have lost their culture and self-respect by worshipping calypsonians who abused them for years.”
Panday was speaking to reporters yesterday as the Hindu Festivals Society celebrated Indian Arrival Day at the Siparia constituency of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. A street procession involving bullcarts, dancers and singers from Kabir Chawra Math group, St John’s Ramleela Committee, Cunaripo Cultural Group, Ganesh and Devi Mandir and Panduanga Cultural Group re-enacted the arrival of the first Indians aboard the Fatel Rozack on May 30, 1845.
Panday, who was given the society’s top award for being the first Indian Prime Minister and selfless labour leader, said he was humbled by the group’s efforts to acknowledge his contribution. “I am grateful to the society for giving me this award,” said Panday, adding jokingly, “I am not sure what it is for, so I must have done something good in the 44 years that I have been involved in political life and trade unionism.”
Asked what was the biggest challenge facing Indo-Trinidadians, Panday responded: “It’s their loss of culture. “By loss of culture, they are beginning to lose their self-respect, their dignity and everything else,” he said. “For example, if you see people clapping and worshipping and ‘sorhawaying’ people who have abused them for 20 years, singing calypsoes abusing them, and then you see them clapping and dancing, they are beginning to lose their self-respect.
“That’s a problem because you lose your self-respect when you lose your culture. “It is always said when you want to enslave a man, the first thing to do is to deculturalise them and then you will enslave them eventually.” Asked whether he was referring to Sugar Aloes’ appearance at the People’s Partnership rally, Panday said: “I am making reference to nothing, I am just making a bland statement.
“It is not for Mr Aloes to account because he is paid,” he said. “He is an artiste and if anybody pays him, he goes and sings...That is his job, but it is the insensitivity of those who brought him there; that is what matters.” The breakdown in culture was a product of time, said the former political leader of the United National Congress.
“I don’t know what is responsible for the breakdown in culture...Things change and the only constant is change, so things will change whether you like it or not,” Panday said. “Human beings can only influence the direction of change, but you can’t stop change, so change is taking place in the Indian community.”
As T&T observes the 167th anniversary of East Indians’ arrival on May 30, Panday Indo-Trinidadians must be proud of themselves. “It is only when you are proud of yourself that you will not dehumanise yourself in the way that some of us are doing, and it is only then you will have the pride and strength to stand up for what you believe is right, and all of that comes from culture,” Panday said.
He said he was not surprised the Government had not granted funds to the society for its celebrations. “Why are you surprised? I didn’t know if there is any difference between them and the PNM. Nothing has changed. I don’t know who controls the purse. There is a Minister of Multi-Culturalism, but I don’t suppose he cares or anybody in Government cares,” Panday said.
Meanwhile, chairman Thirbhawon Seegobin presented awards to Ravindranath “Ravi Ji” Maharaj and Haji Juman Ali, for meritorious and selfless service. Seegobin said youths need more encouragement in culture and community work. He said even though there was a wealth of talent in schools, more needs to be done to encourage promotion of religion and culture. Seegobin, who said the function was privately funded, complained of a bias in the Government funding of small groups, but said: “We have no quarrel with anybody.”
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