THE woman depicted in three daily newspapers yesterday, supposedly kissing the feet of Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, was in fact praying.
That was the explanation given to the Express yesterday by the woman, 58-year-old Bernadine George, during a telephone interview.
George, of Second Caledonia, Morvant, said she was heckled by neighbours yesterday when they saw the picture in the newspapers. She said many of her neighbours angrily asked why she had done such a thing, but when she explained to them what she was actually doing they refused to accept it.
"Everybody saying that I bowed down and kiss Mr. Moonilal foot and have me crying and feeling embarrassed like a little fool. I felt good for everything that people did for me so I give praise because I am very grateful for it. I went down to the ground and say, 'Thank you, Jesus', and say a little prayer and then I got back up," George said.
The unemployed mother of three said: "Right now, I am crying because just so the people saying that I kissing the man foot and one neighbour bawling at me saying why I do that. I tell them I was not kissing the man. I bend down and bow down to the earth and give God praise and thanks because (of) how long I hurting for that."
George said she was made to feel as though she did something wrong.
On his Facebook page, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley condemned Minister Moonilal, saying: "The sight of the Minister of Housing Dr Roodal Moonilal, obviously enjoying the moment, as he makes himself available to have a grateful citizen kiss his feet in return for a small cash grant from the coffers of the taxpayers, is nothing short of repugnant and debasing to all the people of Trinidad and Tobago."
Rowley said the source of the grant is as a result of representation he made as Member of Parliament to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
"Under the circumstances, the behaviour of the minister is chilling and says much more than we want to acknowledge about how some ministers see office, not in the context of service, but only in the realm of servitude, masters and slaves, with the powerful gleefully accepting the servile responses of the grateful poor and illiterate," Rowley said.
He added that he resented "this latest humiliation", saying that this country was "better than that".
Bernadine George was one of several families who received cheques, ranging in value from $3,000 to $7,000, on Wednesday from the Ministry of Housing at the Diego Martin Regional Corporation during its Emergency Shelter Relief Grant Programme.