PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar, like every other citizen, has every right to have and to express her personal opinion on any matter. The mantle of national leadership however, dictates that she acts and speaks as one who leads a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nation.
Recall, if you will, the very recent attempt by Minister Jamal Mohammed to present a strong perspective to media head, Dominic Kalipersad under the guise of personal opinion while holding the office of Minister of Communication.
Elements of the PM's address at the Divali Nagar have presented to us another demonstration of why she is ill-suited for her present role.
How is it that this nation was treated to deafening and protracted silence from the PM on the very potent Section 34 issue yet, in almost diametrically opposing proportion, out bursts her attack on Dr Rowley's attendance and choice of attire at the Nagar! This can only be described as totally distasteful, unbecoming of the event, of a PM, of a lady and, shamelessly contradictory to what is to be believed is the essence of the festival — light over darkness.
I hold no brief for Dr Rowley but he had responded initially to a photo which the world saw, in which the PM was attempting to bow and touch the feet of the President of India. As Mrs Persad-Bissessar stated, she had received on our behalf, the highest award conferred by the people of India and responded with the gesture.
In spite of her sense of obligation to show "deepest reverence by bowing" at the president of India's feet, "paying homage to elders and expressing respect and humility in the most established and common and cultured expression of love and reverence", on that occasion, Mrs Persad-Bissessar was representing Trinidad and Tobago as its Prime Minister—the point already validly held and expressed by many.
I took offence at her choice of expression since I believe T&T is an equal partner with countries with whom we share international relations and if anything, our international "brand" should always seek to reflect that equality.
PM Persad-Bissessar cites Dr Rowley's earlier expression of shock, in her own words, "this sacred exercise in devotion". Is she therefore confirming that it was indeed an act of devotion in accordance with her particular religious tradition? Hmmm...
By attending the Nagar subsequently, Dr Rowley may have reflected on some earlier-held perspective, whatever that may have been and he may have chosen to demonstrate this in the time and manner which he did. Why therefore was there such an overwhelming compulsion by the PM to so crudely lash out at Dr Rowley, according to her, "the same individual who rejected your values…" at a supposedly religious venue already desecrated by far too many politically loaded and tainted utterances? What values, then, Madam PM? Bacchanalia? Is there no real sacred ground?
There appears to be a marked resurgence of "race-talk" in this nation and I wish to urge the perpetrators to think carefully about this disturbing trend which appears to have an obviously carefully orchestrated agenda.
Many among us are taking their cues from all of you who are occupying these most venerable seats of office.
Out of concern for unwittingly offending my brothers and sisters of the Hindu faith, some enlightenment on this particular (latter) topic would be welcomed from any learned quarter. While it is very likely a demonstration of our love and appreciation for the beautiful items of ethnic wear or, our innate desire to be a genuinely all-embracing, culturally tolerant people, the last thing we want is to incur the wrath of the gods because of our ignorance or, to offend those to whom we may well be unknowingly related through our very intertwined pumpkin-vine.
Please reconsider this nonsensical commotion about race because on Divali Day, everybody I know was cooking, eating and enjoying curry. Stop all this foolishness I say. We all belong to the human race!
Debra J Johnson