Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Tuesday, August 19, 2003  

Today's Express has a curious story headlined "Tidco vows to correct 'racist' T&T image".

Sunday last, a certain Linda Edwards, a Trinidadian living in Houston, Texas and a regular correspondent for the Express began circulating a protest letter she sent to a consultant with the oil company Exxonmobil.

The letter was in response to a film, made in Trinidad, that the consultant, a certain Sunita Singh, had shown to some of Exxonmobil's executives who are set to take up appointments in T&T. According to Ms Edwards, the film depicts "anti-Indian attitudes" and casts T&T as a racist country.

Ms Edwards's letter was forwaded to the Tourism and Industrial Development Company, Tidco, and various government ministers, and says, in part:

"I was informed by eyewitnesses, that as part of your training, you showed a film in which an African school principal was interviewing an Indian teacher for a position in his school, and in which the African principal called the Indian a 'coolie', and suggested he stay in the canefields.

"No one in the Trinidad and Tobago film community knows of such a film. This picture of Trinidad and Tobago is dangerously wrong, prejudicial and can serve the Exxonmobil executives adversely if they are allowed to believe that Trinidad and Tobago has a 'serious racial problem', which it has not."

The CEO of Tidco, Brian Harry, responded by saying he intends to meet with executives of Exxonmobil to correct this erroneous view of T&T as a racist country.

The interesting thing is that no one--not Ms Edwards, nor Mr Harry, nor the writer of the story, Terry Joseph--seems to realise that the film in question is the Mystic Masseur, the Merchant/Ivory production based on VS Naipaul's novel. (Incidentally, the "racist" scene referred to in the film bears little resemblance to the corresponding scene in the novel.)

It appears as if there's more going on here than people are willing to let on, and I wonder at the decision of the Express to go public with this story before all the facts are known. Waiting with bated breath to see what happens next....

posted by Jonathan | 11:12 AM 0 comments


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