feathered friend: Congress of the People (COP) leader Prakash Ramadhar made a feathered friend in "Saheena", a scarlet macaw who is part of the "Zoo to You" repertoire that brings a petting zoo to children's events. In this case, it was the annual children's Christmas treat for Ramadhar's St Augustine constituency at the Tunapuna Hindu Primary School yesterday. —Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

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Residents chase off Prakash with his gifts

COP visits Powder Magazine

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

Residents of Powder Magazine, Phase I, Cocorite, yesterday attempted to stop leader of the Congress of the People (COP) Prakash Ramadhar from distributing toys to children living in the housing development and from cutting a ribbon for a repaired swing.

Ramadhar and several members of the COP's Diego Martin Central constituency went to the housing development around 10 a.m., with the intention of spreading Christmas joy to the children living there through a community-based project.

Instead, they were told they were not wanted there.

Ramadhar and his team ignored the initial shouts of protest coming from a window in one of the buildings within the development but eventually left the compound after more residents joined in the verbal protest, with one man threatening to leave and come back.

Speaking with reporters after the verbal attack, Ramadhar said he was confused over the reaction of the residents since the gesture was done in keeping with the Christmas spirit.

"One of our activists, together with his group, was able to put together a swing that has been in a terrible condition and not usable for a long time. Although small, it was a very important effort because children need to recreate a space that they find comfortable to play.

"Some persons who clearly did not quite understand the need to look after children complained that we gave toys and it did not come from them, and the children should not be given toys unless it came from them, so I am in a state of confusion as to why.

"This is an open-hearted, loving gesture from small people. This is not a rich-people thing; they raised some money, they bought gifts for children, they were able to use their own handiwork and fix the swing and they are working now to level the ground, and others were complaining about that. I find this very troubling," he said.

"And that is what we are trying to do; break down the barriers and the walls that divide this community along political lines," he added.

He said he thought the community these days did not put enough value on unity, and children needed to learn that through play.

Asked about his thoughts on the request sent by President George Maxwell Richards to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the Section 34 issue, Ramadhar said he believed it was time to move on.

"The Prime Minister has informed us that she has responded to him in writing under a matter of confidentiality; I am in no position to add anything further to what may have been communicated between them.

The Prime Minister made statements in the Parliament; she made a national statement as to exactly what happened with the investigation, the meeting with the Chief Justice, the DPP and other stakeholders and the decision that she arrived at, so I don't see if there is anything more that one could add.

It will be a burning issue to many, but there are other things that we need to look at and we need to move on, and as others have said, not to forget it but to learn from it."

Ramadhar added that he did not believe an independent enquiry into the matter will make any sense since there has already been full disclosure by the Prime Minister.

Later yesterday at an event in Tunapuna, Ramadhar said he felt the President should find recourse in the PM's correspondence.

He said the nation should also be reminded that Persad-Bissessar, for the first time in the history of the country, lifted the veil of confidentiality from the Cabinet to offer an explanation for Section 34.

"This is the healthiest development so far in our young nation," Ramadhar said while speaking at the annual children's Christmas party for his St Augustine constituency at the Tunapuna Hindu Primary School.

—additional reporting by Kim Boodram

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