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Dismantling a Colonial Mindset

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Dismantling a Colonial Mindset
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The apparent public outcry and protest about the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India has acted like a trigger to impel a searching inquiry and analysis of why there is such brouhaha.  The outcome is quite enlightening.

The 443-year Colonial period introduced European forms of governance to this country.  First, the Portuguese and their military rule, then the Dutch and their corporate form of administration and finally the British imperial civil administration.  What we have inherited today is the legacy left behind by the British when they departed in 1948.  That structure of command and control is with us with minor modifications.  Those ‘modifications’ haven’t improved the system, only made it even more arbitrary by vesting almost unbridled power in the hands of governing party politicians and their toadies and lick-spittles.

When the British took over from the Dutch in 1796 and in 1803 converted the Island into a Crown Colony they gradually introduced a colonial administration under a governor appointed in Whitehall.  The basic purpose of this rule was to exploit the natural resources of the Island and extract as much revenue as possible by way of taxes, levies, licences, permits, duties and other forms of garnering money from the population.  For ease of governance the country was divided into provinces under a ‘government agent.’  Under him there functioned several ‘district revenue officers.’  Their main function was to keep the money flowing into the Treasury.  The country was supposed to pay its own way without being a burden on the British Exchequer.  This didn’t always happen and the Island’s expenditure had to be subsidised on several occasions in the early years.  However, in pursuance of the main goal of exploiting the country to the fullest, land was expropriated and vested in the Crown and became ‘Crown Lands’ to be disposed of according to the wishes of the Government in London.

In the empire-building period that began in the 1700s and continued into the 1900s the colonies had to produce cash crops:  Cinchona, tea, coffee, sugar, rubber, tobacco, cocoa, oil palm, coconut, cotton and so on.  If the resident population was averse to working on these plantations, labour was transported across the seas and transplanted in alien surroundings, much like the pieces on a chess board.  For the better part of the first half-century much of this was slave or indentured labour kept in appalling conditions.

The structures and systems developed during this era were designed to suit the rulers and their convenience regardless of any and all other considerations.  It was, perforce, utterly authoritarian and arbitrary and acted on with impunity.  The colonial masters were immune to any sort of protest or challenge and brooked no opposition whatsoever.  If there was any criticism of the exploitation going on or the inhumanity of the system by their own, that individual was sent back home to nurse his ideals.  If it was from the missionary clergy, the Bishop was prevailed upon to transfer the inconvenient cleric out of the country as soon as possible.

When the Police Force was set-up, it replaced the volunteer town guards made-up of citizens.  The Force was, from the outset, to maintain British ‘Law & Order’ regardless of such concepts as those of justice or equity.  It, like its name, was a ‘Force’ mandated to use force, coercion, and compulsion with impunity.  Ordinary people, as distinct from the White Masters, were to be treated with contempt, utter contempt.  They had to know their ‘place’ in the order of things under the then prevailing universal Pax Britannica.

The social order was from time immemorial based on caste.  The new element that was now introduced was the British class system that was superimposed on caste and both conspired to reduce the average person to a servile dog.  People were treated as utter nonentities or nobodies by all public servants.  Those employed by government assumed airs and graces and lorded it over the ordinary public.  They were kept waiting in queues, kept standing, sent from pillar to post, shouted at, abused, humiliated, and even chased out by irate public servants who had been annoyed or irritated.  At the hands of the Police it was even worse!  Complainants or accused were assaulted with hands, batons, and even rifle-butts, and roundly abused in the most obscene language.  These were commonplace occurrences and so much so that ordinary people fear the Police to this day.  No one wants to walk into a Police Station unless it was a dire emergency!