Unspoken Trinidadian Realities


Earlier today, I was doing some research into the CARICOM Skills Certificate, and came across some disturbing news reports.

The first was from the Trinidad Express :

The release continued: “Mrs Persad Bissessar -also claimed that the CSME would be used for voter padding – according to the Representation of the People’s Act, any Commonwealth citizen living in any Commonwealth state is eligible to vote after a period of 12 months. […]

[…] The head of the Unit considers the statements made by the Hon Member of Parliament (MP) for Siparia as most unfortunate and views them as a deliberate attempt to politicise the CSME.

“The head of the Unit therefore calls upon the Hon MP for Siparia to withdraw these statements and to use the opportunity to bring correct information to her constituents.”

Those with a knowledge of Trinidadian racial politics would understand (or at least infer) what she was referring to — a possible influx of voters for the PNM (she is with the UNC)

An influx of voters for the PNM would, in the language of Trinidadian racial politics, mean an influx of Black people, who by and large tend to vote for the PNM (although not exclusively.) Was she referring to the possibility of the delicate balance of Black and Indian (in which Indians have a slight numerical advantage) being upset by CARICOM immigration?

Given that the UNC signed the original CSME agreement, is it possible that a UNC administration would bring in more Guyanese, and therefore more Indians? Also, is the PNM government likely to bring in more Jamaicans, Bajans and other islanders, and therefore more Blacks?

At the very least, she seems to have been speculating along these lines.

While Guyanese might be quite comfortable thinking about race and its connection to political parties, Bajans, Jamaicans and other islanders have every right to be concerned. With the advent of CSME and the CARICOM Skills Certificate, in Trinidad (and perhaps Guyana) will there be a renewed emphasis on race as a determinant of immigration? How about nationality?

Trinidad is fast earning a reputation as being the hardest country in the region to gain legal permission to work in, as the reports grow that they do not accept CARICOM Skill Certificates issued in other territories. One has to re-apply for a certificate while in Trinidad, without which working in Trinidad is illegal.

However, how is a Caribbean professional to find this out? A Trinidadian HR manager who puts an advertisement in the newspaper might have no idea that the current practice deviates significantly from those being advertised. Here in the blogosphere, the issue is not being mentioned.

It might be a good idea to wait to get the facts straight before moving to Port of Spain with a certificate in hand.