Friday, August 31, 2007

Congress of the People and Trinidad's Caribs

In "Dookeran pays tribute to the Caribs," an article that appeared in Trinidad's Newsday on June 9, 2007, Winston Dookeran, the leader of the opposition Congress of the People (COP),

has paid tribute to the indigenous people of Trinidad and Tobago, mainly the Caribs, and urged the country not to forget the contribution they made to its development. Dookeran made the call on Wednesday night during his address at the seminar — A Rich Heritage a Common Future in celebration of our First People — at Legacy Hall, Sanchez Street, Arima. He said the COP is committed to the construction of a “national character” and in so doing cannot forget the sacrifice of the country’s indigenous foreparents. Dookeran said he is aware of the many challenges faced by the descendants of indigenous people and expressed the firm conviction that the fragile community is already threatened by the trends of Western society and must be preserved. He said most people will agree that not enough had been done to support the Carib community of Arima in a country that possesses so much wealth. “It is high time that we learn to respect the memory and contribution of those who came before us,” said Dookeran. “It is important that we pay debt of gratitude to the Santa Rosa festival and tribute to the descendants in spite of the hurdles they had to overcome.”

It is interesting to see that, increasingly, national political parties visit Arima and court it's "indigenous heritage" in making their pitches for national unity, as part of their campaigns to attain national office. This was rarely the case before the current millennium. Why this is starting to happen with greater frequency now is an interesting question.

Where Dookeran does not depart from the past is in his resort to a standard menu for framing Trinidad's indigenous people, in terms of past "contributions"--indeed, contributions to "national development," which supposedly occurred prior to the nation, in fact, prior to "development" itself. Caribs are memory, and sacrifice, part of the long and painful quest to achieve national independence--it is a laudable, even heroic theme, but it is also nostalgic and abandons Trinidad's Amerindians to history, speaking of Caribs today as "descendants."

(For those of you who may be asking if Dookeran is East Indian, one can only say he is a "descendant.")

No comments: