The People’s National Movement (PNM) is calling on the national community to reject the decision of the Prime Minister and United National Congress Political Leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, to inject the issue of race into the 2015 general election campaign.
The PNM, throughout its history, prides itself on the fact that, despite the multi-ethnic society of Trinidad and Tobago, this country, due to the enlightened posture of the PNM both in government and opposition, has avoided the ethnic conflagrations that have occurred in similar societies both near and far from Trinidad and Tobago. Under the PNM, all ethnic groups have risen.
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar and her party supporters over the last year, especially as their electoral prospects continued to dim, have increasingly resorted to playing on the ethnic fears of her supporters. In the highly charged atmosphere of an election campaign, this is a dangerous development and one that should concern every right-thinking national of Trinidad and Tobago.
In the only occasion of any statement that could be remotely considered racist being uttered on a PNM platform, our Political Leader, Dr. Keith Rowley, the records would show, immediately called for an apology from the candidate for Roxborough, Hilton Sandy, and distanced the PNM from it, as published and broadcast in the Media during the 2013 THA elections.
“The People's National Movement is distancing itself from the comments made by the THA Infrastructure and Public Utilities Secretary, Mr. Hilton Sandy.
Political Leader Dr. Keith Rowley said Mr. Sandy owes the country an apology for saying that ‘a ship from Calcutta, is waiting to invade Tobago once the TOP wins the upcoming election’.
It was unfortunate that Mr. Sandy would have made that type of reference to some song. It was unnecessary and whatever implications it had, he should apologise for it because it forms no part of the PNM campaign. I know many people would jump to grab at it to prove that the PNM is running a racial campaign, we certainly are not."
Dr. Rowley also dismissed reports that the comments were sanctioned by himself and THA Chief Secretary, Orville London.
"I did see somebody, some one of your colleagues in reporting Mr. Sandy's comment on the song, saying that he was cheered on by the Leader of the PNM and the THA Chief Secretary, that's an absolute untruth. In fact, Mr. Sandy was spoken to about it and I expect that he will rectify his misstep or misgivings."
Such statesmanship has been increasingly lacking from the Prime Minister. Instead of condemning the racially tinged campaign of the UNC, the Prime Minister, even as she hugs babies of every hue, has been actively leading a campaign of stabbing her political opponents at night with naked appeals to the ethnic and racial stereotyping that we have, as a society, worked years to overcome.
The PNM condemns this policy which has been used to vilify its political leader and culminated in the vile pronouncements of the then Member for Tobago East which was given desk thumping support by her Parliamentary colleagues. The racial stereotyping strategy is now being employed by the Prime Minister to misconstrue and misinterpret the well-founded criticism of Laventille West PNM candidate, Fitzgerald Hinds, of the home acquisition exploits of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar and her People’s Partnership sidekick, Ashworth Jack of the TOP.
We should note, that this is the not the first time that Mrs. Persad-Bissessar has resorted to open appeals to race when she finds her back against the wall. On June 29th 2013, Mrs. Persad-Bissessar appealed to the residents of Felicity and relatives of Avinash Singh and stated: “The PNM has chosen one of your children from Felicity to fight against your Party...”
Since then, as the PNM has continued to expand into areas and groups once considered the preserve of the UNC, the rhetoric of the Prime Minister and other UNC leaders has become even more blatant.
We still await any condemnation, from the Prime Minister, of the massive billboards placed on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway with a racist message and bearing the Hindu ohm sign.
As all assessments points to a resounding victory for the PNM in the upcoming general elections, we expect the Prime Minister to become even more strident as she moves from coded statements to open appeals to race. We have every confidence that the people of Trinidad and Tobago will look past this and see the real face of the Prime Minister that is now being unveiled publicly.