Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday that he was reluctant accept the Speaker's invitation to give Divali greetings in the House of Representatives, lest his bestowing of such greetings should "cause any member of this House to fly out the door".
The sarcasm behind the statement elicited general laughter but National Security Minister Jack Warner, to whom the remark was no doubt directed, wore a cheerless expression. Warner had stated in a letter to Surujdeo Mangaroo, Public Relations Officer of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) , that he had stayed away from the opening of Divali Nagar because of the presence of Rowley.
Rowley said in Parliament yesterday that the country was fortunate because it had different cultures. "At times like these it is the coming together and sharing of what the communities have brought and made Trinidad and Tobago's own that should cause us to understand our place in the world. "In the area of peaceful coexistence, multicultural, multireligious, multiethnic communities living together and sharing experiences, working together to build a nation, there is nowhere else in the world where a better example could be found than Trinidad and Tobago, notwithstanding the best efforts of some who may not fully appreciate what we have accomplished in the short life of our country," he stated.
Rowley said the triumph of light over darkness was something accepted by all religions in the world and Divali represented that. He said in this country, there were celebrations, such as Christmas and Divali, which transcended the communities for which they came.
Minister of Transport Chandresh Sharma said said he was happy that in this 50th anniversary of Independence, the country stood strong as a nation in its commitment to religious freedom and diversity. "Each Member of Parliament here has in his or her heart the best for Trinidad and Tobago. It is in this vein that we sit here every week and conduct a respectful debate on the issues affecting Trinidad and Tobago. We may have differing opinions on how we reach the same goal but we do have one goal—a better Trinidad and Tobago for all of us for the next 50 years," he said to loud desk thumping on both sides.
He said the observance of Divali was testimony to the diverse cultural traditions of the country. "It makes all of us very proud to know the high regard which we hold and demonstrate for each other's beliefs and customs," he said.
Sharma said each year, across communities all over this country without distinction of religion, the citizens come together to witness Ramleela performances.
House Speaker Wade Mark also gave Divali greetings.