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Indo-Trinis in the professions

TREVOR SUDAMA Monday, July 17 2017

ANOTHER SPHERE in which Indo-Trinidadians are deemed to have an overwhelming presence is in the professions. As I have mentioned earlier, the notion of dominance must be related to the proportion of the population which comprises Indo-Trinidadians.

If, therefore, Indo-Trinidadians account for 37 per cent of the population and constitute anywhere that percentage in a profession, then such a situation cannot be regarded as dominant but would be so at 50 or 60 per cent.

The view that Indo-Trinidadians are hugely represented in the professions is related to their visibility in the two oldest and most prestigious ones of medicine and law.

In the medical profession, there are over 2,500 registered practitioners.

It is not known exactly how many of those are Indo-Trinidadians.

Certainly in the south and central areas they are highly prominent but not as much in Port of Spain and other urban centres. If, indeed, 1,500 (60 per cent) are Indo-Trinidadians, this ratio can be regarded as dominant. One commentator (Kevin Baldeosingh, Sunday Guardian, 28/5/17) has even put it higher at 80 per cent based on sources of limited reliability. While it is quite likely that there is a significant Indo- Trinidadian majority among medical practitioners, there is no certainty of the exact proportion.

However, in a column on 25/7/16, I pointed out that “in the medical sphere, there is a host of professionals other than medical doctors per se, such as dentists, veterinary surgeons, pathologists, anesthetists, radiologists, pharmacists, laboratory specialists, quality control managers, nursing professionals, health administrators, specialist equipment engineers etc.” If the medical sector is taken as a whole, it is a matter of speculation as to where the ethnic balance lies.

In the legal profession, again there is a high visibility of Indo-Trinidadians, particularly in private practice and more so in the south and central areas but less so in Port of Spain.

Baldeosingh (referenced above) has stated that 59 per cent of law firms were dominated by Indo-Trinidadians.

These would be private law firms catering to members of the general public.

However, there are hundreds of lawyers engaged in the public bureaucracy and statutory authorities, in the State enterprises, in private sector corporations and in the judicial system.

Of the total of 4,426 attorneys registered with the Law Association of TT, we do not know the ethnic balance overall in order to make a definitive statement of dominance and its degree.

It would appear that non-Indo- Trinidadians were taken aback by the speed with which Indo-Trinidadians embraced the medical and legal professions. Whereas up to the 1940s, a century after their arrival, there were hardly any Indo-Trinidadians in medicine and only a few in law. However, the subsequent three or four decades saw large numbers of Indo-Trinidadians inducted into these two professions, no doubt causing some consternation in the rest of the population. Selwyn Ryan was emphatic in his column of 13/9/15 in the Sunday Express that “the Indos now control the professions” which I interpret to mean all the professions in the land and not only medicine and law. However, as I commented in my column of 25/7/16, “Quite apart from the medical and legal field, the range of professions in existence today is quite expansive. The list which follows is not exhaustive.

“Among engineers, there are sub-categories of petroleum, chemical, electrical, civil, structural, design and computer. There are also architects, field surveyors, quantity surveyors, draftsmen, project managers, computer programmers, executives, general managers, accountants, financial comptrollers, financial analysts, planners, senior bureaucrats, university lecturers and researchers, public relations specialists, fashion and copy designers and many more.

“If, therefore, we take into account the professional class as a whole, both in the public and private sectors, can we conclude, according to Ryan, that Indo-Trinidadians are dominant and in control of each sphere and overall nationally? It would be a massive leap of intuition.”

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