honoured: A Hindu devotee, portraying Lord Rama, places a garland on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar upon her arrival at the 2012 Divali Nagar in Chaguanas on Monday night. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

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PM ATTACKS ROWLEY

'Kurta-clad' Opposition Leader hit for presence at Nagar

By Louis B Homer

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar launched a scathing attack on Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley at the closing of the Divali Nagar festivities in Chaguanas on Monday.

Rowley, she said, had attacked her for bowing at the feet of the President of India during her state visit to that country in January of this year.

Bowing, she said, was a traditional Indian custom, and now the same Rowely seemed to want to embrace those customs by attending the Divali Nagar. This, she said, showed the power of light over darkness, as Divali is known as the Festival of Lights.

During her feature address at the Nagar which is organised by the National Council for Indian Culture (NCIC), Persad-Bissessar said: "...On that visit I received on your behalf, the highest award conferred by the people of India and in the most established and deepest show of reverence I bowed at the feet of the President of India.

"In so doing, paying homage to our elders and expressing respect and humility. This you all know to be a common and cultured expression of love and reverence.

"The Opposition Leader expressed shock, contempt and poured scorn on this sacred exercise in devotion.

"Today, a few short months later, that same person came kurta-clad to share in your festivities and admire your art forms.

"The same individual who rejected your values.

"Such is the power of light that it can draw all darkness away from its path. You are the light. You are the hope, you are the faith and you are the optimism inherent in our national endeavour. And I praise you today for embracing all without hate, malice or recrimination."

In a letter dated November 3, National Security Minister Jack Warner had written to the NCIC explaining that he would not attend the opening night of the Divali Nagar because Rowley would be attending.

In the letter, he explained that his love for the Hindu community motivated his decision to stay away. The NCIC subsequently explained that all parliamentarians were invited to the Nagar's opening ceremony every year.

In her spiritual life, Persad-Bissessar said Lord Hanuman had special significance to her and that perhaps he was the most loved of all Hindu deities. There were several lessons she learned from Hanuman's example, she said, one was fearlessness.

"I want to assure you, that as your Prime Minister, I will go about my duties without fear. I am not easily driven to be fearful. I might be cautious as I need to be, but I am not afraid to treat with the challenges that confront this nation, its peoples and its principles," she said.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by her husband, Dr Gregory Bissessar, and members of the Cabinet.

Absent were Warner, Labour Minister Errol McLeod, Leader of the Congress of the People (COP) Prakash Ramadhar and COP chairman Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, who had criticised Warner for his refusal to attend the celebration on the grounds that "religion has no room for divisions".

Warner, however, attended the celebration last Friday.

The closing night of the Divali Nagar celebrations was attended by thousands from various parts of Trinidad and Tobago.

At one point, traffic came to a standstill on the Endeavour Road as visitors continued to arrive, even after the formal celebrations and the display of fire works on the grounds of the site on Butler Highway, Chaguanas.

The week-long Divali Nagar, featured nightly entertainment, food stalls and clothing booths.

As the function came to a close, the biggest problem affecting patrons was the traffic congestion on the road leading in and out of the Nagar.

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