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T&T no Fiji : Indian High Commissioner spars with local activists over reasons for coup

T&T no Fiji : Indian High Commissioner spars with local activists over reasons for coup

Author: Rory Rostant
Publication: Trinidad Guardian
Date: July 10, 2000
URL: http://www.guardian.co.tt/

INDIAN High Commissioner Professor Parimal Kumar Das clashed with Indo-Trinidadians at a panel discussion on Saturday over their belief that Trinidad and Tobago was facing a racial crisis like Fiji.
"I don't look at it as a crisis between Fijians and Indians," Das told his audience, including fellow panelists Kamal Persad, an Express columnist, and former DLP MP, Balgobin Ramdeen.

"That is what the Western media would have you believe," he said, arguing that the Indian community in T&T had gotten the wrong perception of the crisis in Fiji.  While agreeing that Indians in Trinidad hold political power, he refused to be drawn into any argument that T&T was on the same path as Fiji.

Professor Das, who has written a book on Fiji, said he saw the crisis in Fiji as a conflict between the powerful ruling landlords and the working class.

Persad, however, insisted that the conflict was indeed one of race and instigated to keep the Indians from power.  To look at the crisis in Fiji from Das' perspective was to sidestep the issue, he said, describing it as a race war.

The panel discussion, organised by the Hindu Writers Forum, took place on Saturday at the Chaguanas Junior Secondary School.  Its theme was "The Fiji crisis: Its implications for Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago".

The panel, chaired by Dr Kumar Mahabir, was the first in a series of discussions to be held throughout T&T.  It was organised to defend Hindu and Indian rights.

Das argued that it was the fear of multi-racialism taking root in Fiji under Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry which brought rebel leader George Speight to power.

Chaudhry was removed not because he was Indian, Das maintained, adding that the attempted coup was not only against Indians but against Fijians as well.

"Indians are not standing up for Indians," Das was told afterward by a member of the Hindu Seva Sangh, a Hindu activist group, during the question-and-answer period.  "When India acts strong then Indians in Trinidad look good."

Das reminded the audience that as High Commissioner to T&T he did not represent the Indian population only, but other races as well.  Das was then told that India had sacrificed the Indians in Fiji for the sake of aspiring to the status of a world power.

Fiji's history, Persad insisted, was similar to that of Trinidad's and Guyana's, where Indians got into power and other races faced the spectre of an Indian hegemony.

As has happened in Fiji, Persad said, a similar pattern was developing in Trinidad, where Indians are now being viewed with contempt for wielding political power.

Of the race war theory, Das said it was wrong to make that kind of presentation without knowing the facts.

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