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Govt officials, stop the verbal abuse

I WISH to point out some of the untruths put out by Minister Anil Roberts on national TV about my friend, colleague and sister in social activism, Verna St Rose Greaves.

Nobody in Trinidad and Tobago is advocating gay marriage. Not CAISO, not the women's movement, and not Verna St Rose Greaves. So to say that she was "demanding" it is an untruth, Minister Roberts.

What is being advocated is an end to discrimination against a whole sector of our citizenry, and the extension of everyday, basic human rights to all people, whatever their sexual orientation.

Verna did not send anybody to St Ann's. As a matter of principle she took responsibility for a chain of events that she did not bring about. One day, no doubt, she will herself reveal the facts surrounding this incident, including facts that will not show in a good light the previous boss of the woman at the centre of the controversy.

Minister Roberts painted a picture of Verna browbeating with "her opinion" not only the Cabinet, but participants at consultations on the Gender Policy. Well, the bulk of consultations were carried out, long before Verna became Minister of Gender, by the UWI Centre for Gender and Development Studies.

A more recent consultation process was moderated not by the Minister, but by staff of the Gender Ministry and facilitators from the NGO movement.

The contents of the Gender Policy are not the personal opinions of Verna St Rose Greaves. It is a large cross-section of citizens that contributed to the making of this document.

I would plead for an end to the abusive models of communication being presented by members of our political leadership who respond to criticism, real or perceived, by immediately resorting to personal slurs and character assassination, rather than speaking to the issue.

Some weeks ago, in commenting on reactions to "Clause 34", the Prime Minister remarked that the issue had been debated by many, "some with unnecessary vitriol and vituperation". These latter were people speaking against a government action. Today, a deluge of "vitriol and vituperation" and just sheer, gratuitous verbal abuse is being released from a height on citizens, by members of the Government—yesterday on Dr Kublalsingh and family; today on Verna… Who's next?

Please, my sister Kamla, PM, rein in your ministers. This can't continue. You know in your heart that that Verna's words were no "attack on your character", no malice, no viciousness, but, on the contrary, an expression of deep concern and support for you. The men in your Cabinet dishing out the abuse today can't see it, because of the beam in their eye. But you know.

And if they trying to break Verna, you also know that they can't. Apart from setting an appalling example for children and youth, especially young males, the only other damage they are doing is to themselves and to the Government.

Merle Hodge

via e-mail

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