University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, Trinidad and Tobago, U.N. Doc. A/50/18, paras. 31-48 (1995).



Forty-sixth session


Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Trinidad and Tobago

31. The seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth periodic reports of Trinidad and Tobago, submitted in one document (CERD/C/224/Add.1), were considered by the Committee, at its 1072nd meeting, held on 28 February 1995 (CERD/C/SR.1072).

32. The reports were introduced by the representative of the State party who indicated that since the submission of the last report, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had enacted a series of laws intended to promote the interests of various sectoral interest groups. The representative then emphasized that the information on the ethnic and religious composition of the population provided by the most recent census was merely one of record-keeping for statistical purposes. The Government continued to maintain that the categorization of the population along these lines might lead to racial division and disharmony, and that the country should not pursue strategies for development which divided the nation along racial or ethnic lines. The Government had worked to integrate all the people of Trinidad and Tobago, on a non-discriminatory basis, into one society.

33. Members of the Committee welcomed the fact that Trinidad and Tobago had decided to resume submitting periodic reports after a hiatus of eight years and urged the Government to continue its renewed dialogue with the Committee.

34. Members of the Committee asked why the Caribs had all but disappeared, exactly how many were left, why they were not treated as a separate racial group and whether measures were being taken to help them, particularly in the economic and educational fields, so as to compensate them for the injustices they had suffered.

35. Members of the Committee also asked why there were no political refugees in Trinidad and Tobago, although in some neighbouring countries political persecution was resulting in flows of refugees, or whether the refugees in Trinidad and Tobago enjoyed some other status.

36. With regard to article 4, members of the Committee noted, as during the consideration of the sixth report, that the Sedition Act posed a problem in that a seditious intention, as defined by the Act, was extremely difficult to prove in practice and that the Act, while it admittedly conformed to the provisions of article 4 (a), in no way conformed to those of subparagraph (b). It did not seem enough to condemn organizations or organized groups preaching discrimination in any form. Members therefore wondered whether specific legislative measures had been taken since 1987 to supplement existing measures concerning the implementation of article 4.

37. Regarding the implementation of the provisions of article 5 of the Convention, some members of the Committee noted that it would be helpful to have the results of the survey of recruitment practices in the public and private sectors which was scheduled to be carried out in 1994, and to know whether the survey had revealed cases of racial discrimination in hiring. Some members of the Committee asked why the numbers of Trinidad nationals of African origin employed in the public and private sectors differed from the numbers of those of Indian origin employed, although the size of the two communities was about the same. They asked whether measures had been taken by the Government to redress that ethnic imbalance with regard to employment. On the question of education, members of the Committee asked why there was such an overwhelming predominance of catholic schools, while Hindu schools seemed few in number. Members also asked whether all social groups enjoyed equal access to higher education.

38. With regard to article 6, members noted that victims of acts of discrimination could apply to the High Court and asked whether Trinidad law provided for remedy procedures which were less protracted and less costly and whether the fact that no cases of alleged State violations of human rights on grounds of race, origin, colour, religion or sex had been brought before the High Court might not be due to unfamiliarity with the provisions of the Convention.

39. On article 7, members asked about the existence of information programmes designed to familiarize police officers with the provisions of the Convention.

40. Finally, members asked whether the Trinidad authorities intended to make the declaration referred to in article 14 of the Convention and, in accordance with the Committee's general recommendation XVII (42) and with various recommendations of the Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations General Assembly, establish a national institution to facilitate the implementation of the Convention.

41. In reply to the Committee's questions and observations, the representative of the State party explained that Trinidad had no refugee problem because people wishing to emigrate went to other countries in the region, such as the United States of America. However, two members of a Haitian junior football team had recently applied for, and been granted, refugee status.

42. There were historical reasons for the differences in the distribution of ethnic groups between the public and private sectors. Following the abolition of slavery, former slaves, who were of African descent, settled in towns, while people of Indian descent, who had been hired as agricultural workers, remained in the rural areas, mainly where sugar cane was grown.

43. There was no racial obstacle to access to education. Students wishing to take higher studies were selected on the basis of their examination results at the end of secondary school. Similarly, students wishing to take secondary studies must sit an entrance examination which was the same throughout the country.

Concluding observations

44. At its 1094th meeting, held on 15 March 1995, the Committee adopted the following concluding observations.

(a) Introduction

45. Appreciation is expressed as to the submission of the report and the readiness of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to resume, after a break of eight years, a dialogue with the Committee. It is noted with regret that the report under consideration did not comply with the Committee's revised general guidelines for the preparation of reports. However, the oral dialogue allowed the Committee to re-establish cooperation with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago with a view to the effective implementation of the provisions of the Convention.

(b) Positive aspects

46. Appreciation is expressed with regard to the commitment of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to combat racial discrimination and hatred and the efforts made by the State party to comply with the provisions of the Convention.

(c) Principal subjects of concern

47. It is noted that there is a lack of information provided by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago with regard to the legal status of the Convention in the domestic legislation. Concern is expressed on the failure to adopt legislative, administrative and other measures implementing article 4 of the Convention (especially paragraph (b)). It is noted that the report did not provide adequate information on access of the various ethnic groups to primary, secondary and tertiary education. It is also regretted that the report did not give a clear picture of the actual implementation of articles 6 and 7 of the Convention.

(d) Suggestions and recommendations

48. The Committee calls upon the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to report to the Committee on a regular basis, in compliance with its obligations under article 9 of the Convention. The Committee recommends that appropriate consideration should be given by the State party to the effective implementation of article 4 of the Convention, especially paragraph (b), in national legislation. The Committee recommends that more publicity be given to make the public aware of the right to seek from national tribunals just and adequate reparation for any damage suffered as a result of racial discrimination. The Committee further recommends that police officials receive intensive training to ensure that in the performance of their duties they uphold the human rights of all persons without distinction as to race, colour, descent or ethnic origin. The Committee, noting that the eleventh report of Trinidad and Tobago was due on 4 November 1994, invites the Government to submit a brief report on matters outstanding as a result of the Committee's consideration of the tenth report. It expects the twelfth report to be comprehensive and to be submitted by 4 November 1996.

Home || Treaties || Search || Links