PNM stalwarts back Penny

‘Nothing wrong with attending UNC duck party’

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

There was nothing wrong with former senator Pennelope Beckles attending a curry duck lime sponsored by UNC deputy political leader Dr Roodal Moonilal.

This was the view of long-standing and former high-ranking People’s National Movement (PNM) members yesterday in the face of criticisms from other members that Beckles’ attendance at the event in Debe on Saturday night did not look good.

Former acting general secretary and long-standing PNM member, Deodath Ojah Maharaj, said he saw nothing wrong with the action of the PNM lady vice-chairman.

Speaking to the Express by telephone, Ojah-Maharaj said he believed it was a very good gesture for Beckles to attend the event. “It is about time the country heals. Today we sat and looked at the funeral of Nelson Mandela and we associate with it. In the name of Nelson Mandela this country has to heal racially and the leaders have to take the first step. Miss Pennelope is a leader within the PNM, she is chairman of the Women’s League and it is a commendable thing she did,” he said. 

He said the fact it was a UNC function had nothing to do with her attendance. “Dr Fuad Khan is my personal surgeon. If Dr Khan has something at his home, must I not attend? But Dr Khan is a UNC minister. Should I stop consulting with him? Must I stop talking to Devant Maharaj? Devant Maharaj and I belong to the Maha Sabha. Must I stop talking to him? His views are different from mine politically, but religiously we belong to the same organisation. We are Hindus together,” he said.

Maharaj said he and Suruj Rambachan also worked together in the Ministry of Local Government. “Must I stop talking to him?” he asked.

He said it was petty to expect Beckles not to attend such events.

 Maharaj said he was a long-standing member of the PNM and did not see race. Asked whether he believed it was a race prejudice determining the response to Beckles’ attendance, he said yes. He said he was an Indo-Trinidadian, not an Indian. 

Maharaj said PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley was an outstanding person, a no-nonsense person who liked to get the job done. He said he supported Rowley’s efforts to heal the nation by bringing in Avinash Singh and Diane Baldeo-Chadeesingh into the Senate. 

“It is a fantastic move,” Maharaj said. “It signals to the population that Dr Rowley wants to heal the nation racially,” he added.

A former high-ranking member also said he found the brouhaha over the issue to be amusing and amazing. He said there were so many more important issues for the party to discuss. 

He said it was normal in developed countries for politicians on opposing sides to fraternise with each other. 

“I am all for building a culture of bipartisan and agreement. This country is too small and does not have enough talent for us to divide ourselves, and you have one (person) going on the Indo side and another on the Afro side. ... When you look at Mandela and Obama ... why can’t we unite and build a strong organisation that could truly serve Trinidad and Tobago,” the stalwart stated.

He said Rowley should have called on the Prime Minister to apologise for the “hypocrisy” of attacking former prime minister Patrick Manning for jet travel before getting on the private jet hired by the Government to take the national delegation to South Africa. “And if she (had) apologised for the hypocrisy, then he could have gone. Or else I was going by commercial plane,” he stated.

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