RAFFLE: Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, right, and former senator Fitzgerald Hinds look on as Faith Lewis, centre, completes an entry form after she purchased tickets for the PNM’s car raffle outside Hi-Lo’s Westmall outlet in Westmoorings yesterday. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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Rowley, Al-Rawi for Mandela memorial

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and Senator Faris Al-Rawi leave today for South Africa as part of the Trinidad and Tobago delegation to attend the memorial service of international icon Nelson Mandela.

Only six persons from Trinidad and Tobago will be allowed into the stadium where the memorial service is to be held tomorrow. Government will take four of these seats and will give two to the Opposition (Rowley and Al-Rawi).

On Wednesday the Trinidad and Tobago delegation will go to view Mandela’s body as it lies in state.

Mandela’s interment would held on Sunday in his hometown. But the majority of international dignitaries — which include Prince Charles and four living US presidents current and former, the fifth George Bush Snr is too sickly to attend; the Prime Minister of Canada and three former Canadian prime ministers, all the African leaders and dozens of other world leaders — will be attending the memorial service. The Trinidad and Tobago delegation will leave South Africa on either Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Rowley said he will be travelling with both his diplomatic passport and his personal passport “to make sure that I do not get into any difficulty”.

He explained that he was informed by the Head of the Public Service, who is also Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister, (Reynold Cooper) that there was a waiver on the visa requirement for holders of ordinary passports from Trinidad and Tobago, travelling to Johannesburg.

However, holders of diplomatic or official passports require a visa, Rowley said he was told. “That may be so but it sounds back-to-front to me,” he said.

For the ease of passing immigration members have been invited to use their ordinary passports, Al-Rawi told the Express. Sources said the South Africans tend to be strict with their immigration protocol.

Rowley said he gave biographical information for both passports to the Prime Minister’s office. Such data included date of birth, date of issue of the passport, the number etc. “I am making no arrangements. I am simply a guest so I follow whatever instructions are given by those who are organising this trip,” he said.

Al-Rawi said Rowley suggested to the Prime Minister that a small delegation go because he was sure there would be logistical challenges on South Africa’s end, given the number of persons flying in for the memorial service. “For that reason it is just he and I that are going for the Opposition,” Al-Rawi stated.

Accommodation has been arranged for the delegation. The Prime Minister will be staying in Pretoria. Rowley and Al-Rawi will be staying at a hotel in Johannesburg.

Both Rowley and Al-Rawi said the Government’s invitation was accepted because it was Nelson Mandela. “Dr Rowley’s view was that this is Nelson Mandela. We don’t need to say more about the importance of the man, his message and what he stands for. It is in keeping with that that we are going in the way we are going. It is no frills or fancy. It is a very long trip both ways (which is being done) to carry out one’s national duty,” Al-Rawi said.

Al-Rawi will be missing tomorrow’s sitting of the Senate. Rowley told the Express that Fitzgerald Hinds, whose appointment was revoked last Tuesday, will be acting for Al-Rawi. Hinds and Pennelope Beckles were dismissed last week, after spending three and a half years in the Upper House.
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