Monday, February 19, 2018

Time to turn back,Madam PM

Express editorial logo30

Donstan Bonn

The public has come to expect damaging recklessness from the Minister of National Security whose tenure is distinguished more by his capacity for extreme garrulousness than for action. But we did not expect that the Prime Minister, too, would so blithely cross the line of good taste and dignity as she did on the closing night of Divali Nagar.

In the middle of an otherwise innocuous address, Ms Persad-Bissessar injected an attack on the Opposition Leader that was every bit as divisive in intent as that of Mr Warner's criticism of the National Council for Indian Culture's invitation to the Opposition Leader to the opening of Divali Nagar 2012. 

Any hope that the PM would have used the Divali Nagar opportunity to soothe public anxiety over her minister's divisive statements was doomed when she chose to transform the religious event into a political platform from which to attack Dr Rowley.

It is now crystal clear that far from reining in her errant minister as so many have been urging her to do, the Prime Minister fully endorses Warner's position. Indeed, we now have to wonder if he had not been speaking for her.

In harping on the Opposition Leader's criticism of her judgment in bowing at the feet of India's President during her state visit in January, Mrs Persad-Bissessar showed herself to be unusually thin-skinned for such an experienced politician. But to bring her pique into the Divali Nagar arena showed a willingness to put the baser aspects of divisive politics above the common interest of national unity. 

Whether Dr Rowley's criticism of the PM's action in January was valid or not, it is simply wrong for the PM and her ministers to drag it into an event that celebrates a national festival and which is itself supported to a significant degree by taxpayers, regardless of political persuasion. It is unacceptable that such opprobrium could be heaped on the Opposition leader simply because he chose to respect the NCIC's invitation by attending and dressing in a manner appropriate to the occasion.

Even if his criticism still rankles the government, let us remind the Prime Minister that she is the first to ask the country to move on after every misstep by her ministers.  It is time for her to take her own advice and move on from the bowing incident.

Inherent in the criticism of Dr Rowley by the PM and some of her ministers is an underlying assumption that they are more entitled to be in the Divali Nagar space than he is and more entitled to garb themselves in Indo-fashion.  

Coming on the heels of Mr Warner's comment about the ethnic make-up of the Section 34 protest march, we fear that the government may be willfully leading this nation deeper into the choppy waters of ethnic politics. Every citizen who aspires to seeing a nation united in strength must be concerned.

The time to turn back is now.