Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Party must stand against bigotry towards gays

PNM youth speaker:

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spoke amid silence: Joshua Hamlet speaks on Tuesday night during the People's National Movement meeting at the St Barb's basketball court, Laventille. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBAY

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PEOPLE'S National Movement (PNM) youth speaker Joshua Hamlet has called on his party to take a firm stand against the discrimination towards this country's growing lesbian, gay and transgender community.

Hamlet made the call as he addressed the PNM's political meeting at the St Barb's basketball court in Laventille on Tuesday night.

The hierarchy of the PNM, including political leader Dr Keith Rowley, chairman Franklin Khan and the party's three deputy political leaders, were on the stage when Hamlet made his plea.

"The next time we go to the ballots, we cannot make it about people (individuals), it needs to about the issues of the everyday person," Hamlet said to applause.

"And I want to highlight some of those issues. First of all, we have a growing lesbian, gay and transgender community in Trinidad and Tobago that is demanding recognition of their rights for freedom against discrimination through the amending of the Equal Opportunity Act. This must be done," he said.

There was no applause.

"No longer can we let our fundamental beliefs stop us from a critical debate of sexual orientation and gender equality. We must be firm on the National Gender Policy," Hamlet said.

There was no applause.

The issue of the rights of homosexuals has been addressed by international political figures such as US President Barack Obama and Jamaica's Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller.

Before her general election victory, Simpson-Miller stated she was not in favour of discrimination against homosexuals.

In addressing a PNM meeting last February, Rowley had said the party was set to discuss and formulate an official party policy on same-sex marriages and the expansion of genders.

Rowley had made the statement in response to a question by party supporter David Taitt at the auditorium of the St Augustine Secondary School following a walkabout in the area.

Taitt had asked what was the party's official position on the issue of "same-sex marriages and the expansion of genders" and Rowley had replied, "I am not known to speak about things that I am unprepared to speak about.

"So since the question is put to me about the party's position on these matters, I want to inform you unfortunately that I have been in the PNM for 30-odd years and I have not had the opportunity to be exposed to the party discussing these matters, so as I address you tonight I know of no party position on these two issues."