Divided by race, the Caribbean has become a tinderbox

I am off to the Caribbean to follow once more the political crisis brewing in Trinidad and Tobago, where I was born. Racial tensions between the descendants of African slaves and Indian indentured labourers are evident in this tiny place (population: 1.3 million). There are two major political parties, the People's National Movement, founded in 1956 by the former, and the East Indian-supported United National Congress, which is only four years old.

Elections were held late last year following a split in the ruling UNC over the issue of ministerial corruption. The election results divided the 36 parliamentary seats equally, both parties getting 18. The president, who has the exclusive and unchallengeable power to choose the prime minister, put the PNM in office on the grounds of "morality and spirituality".

All hell broke loose. Parliament cannot be convened. The prime minister and the opposition leader cannot agree on a Speaker, who will have a casting vote. No budget can be passed. The present regime is trundling along with what is left over from the last budget.

The opposition leader squats at the prime minister's residence, refusing to leave. I expect that the police and army will move in on him and dump his belongings at the roadside.

The entire society has been degenerating over the past four years or so, with violence growing. A fresh election is likely to give the same results. Even children know that what is now a constitutional crisis will develop into an all-embracing political crisis. No resolution is in sight. The population is divided along racial lines. That will lead to disaster, in a country where large sections of the population bear arms, which have fallen into their hands directly and indirectly through the drugs trade.

BP Amoco and other imperialist outfits have invested heavily in oil and natural gas. The unions have successfully organised their workers in defence of their rights. The university, the press, the working-class institutions - all are divided along racial lines. Trinidad and Tobago is a tinderbox.

Neighbouring Guyana has the same problem. After elections won by the East Indian People's Progressive Party, race riots broke out. The Guyanese will be watching to see which way the wind blows in Trinidad.

Then there is Jamaica. Elections are due in a couple of months and the killing has already started. The battle is supposedly between socialists (the People's National Party) and labourites (the Jamaica Labour Party), but those definitions are meaningless. "Who got more corn feed more fowl" is the popular saying in these islands. Governments are the largest employers, and being a minister brings with it huge riches. No social group relinquishes these privileges easily. The people will slaughter each other and burn each other's houses to the ground.