May 10, 2008

Race and CCJ

MP pulls up UNC-A over ethnic talk
Ria Taitt Political Editor
T&T Express
Saturday, May 10th 2008
The UNC-A cannot speak about ethnic balance in the panel of judges at the Caribbean Court of Justice, when its own parliamentary bench is hardly reflective of this kind of balance, Information Minister Neil Parsanlal said yesterday.

Speaking in the House of Representatives on the CCJ bill yesterday, Parsanlal stated: "Before I can take out the beam in anybody else's eye, I have to take out the mote in my own. Is the ethnic composition, because that is what they are talking about, is the ethnic composition of that bench reflective of the people of Trinidad and Tobago? I submit it is not," he said.

He said on the PNM side, there were "cocoa payol, some half-Chinese, some Indian, some African and me, the quintessential dougla".

"The PNM is reflective of the face of Trinidad and Tobago," he declared. Parsanlal also criticised the constant references by UNC-A speakers to African dictators.

"When references are made to dictators, it is always about Zimbabwe and Mugabe. All the references speak to people who look a particular way and who live in a particular place. There is absolutely no reference to any other countries where there might be dictators. MP for Mayaro (Winston Gypsy Peters), how is it that no references are made, for instance, to dictators from Pakistan?" Parsanlal waxed poetic as he quoted the "quintessential Caribbean man", Black Stalin. He said if he were an East Indian judge, he would feel insulted if he was appointed to the CCJ just because of his race. That would amount to "tokenism" and "patronage", he said.

On Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj's charge that CCJ judges had no work to do and were sipping coffee and reading papers, Parsanlal said he would not be surprised if citizens mistook that for rumshop talk.

"I want to assure the national community that no alcohol is served in the tea-room." Parsanlal also dismissed allegations that CCJ judges were being favoured, saying that some allowances given to local judges were not given to CCJ judges.

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