An Equal Opportunity Commission and Governance in a Plural Society

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Ann Marie Bissessar


This paper first looks at the basic features of a plural model and applies it to Trinidad and Tobago. It demonstrates the problems that were likely to emerge in any plural society where one group was allowed to maintain political control indefinitely. It investigates complaints of discrimination that emerged during the period 1956-1990 in this country. Various reports illustrate, one group dominated the bureaucracy and membership on the state boards, while the other majority group was excluded. Suggestes that while previously many remedies were put in place to address grievances, ethnic and otherwise, in employment and other practices, they were largely ineffective. Thus in 1997, the incoming government, the United National Congress proposed that an Equal Opportunity Commission and Tribunal should be established. While it was found that the Equal Opportunity Legislation that was introduced in Trinidad and Tobago in 1999 did not address concerns of group discrimination, this paper argues that the individual approach to discrimination rather than an indirect or group approach was a more preferred alternative. There was no doubt that such legislation would allow individuals to voice their concerns, for these concerns to be investigated, and for proper mechanisms to be put in place. It concludes that the Equal Opportunity Legislation introduced in the case of Trinidad and Tobago was a vital element in helping to promote more effective and 'good' governance.

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