Trinidad PM accuses Kamla of “race-baiting”

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Trinidad PM accuses Kamla of “race-baiting”
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) — “I have never run away from the colour of my skin.”

So said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as he slammed Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, whom he accused of “race-baiting” yesterday.

He was responding to questions about his Facebook post in which he said in reference to Persad-Bissessar: “Finally!!! Caught in her frequent disgusting race-baiting she is reduced to repeating inane rubbish to try and lie her way out, Anyone surprised? She didn’t call me an Oreo. What she said was “Ohio” or “Oh hello”,

It was the Prime Minister’s sarcastic comment on Persad-Bissessar’s statement that she did not refer to him “as the black man on the other side” but said the “blank man on the other side” during the UNC’s meeting on Thursday night.

Speaking at the Point Cumana Community Centre where he filed his nomination papers yesterday, Rowley said Persad-Bissessar had been leading a “quiet racial campaign for a very long time and then she came out openly.” He said she had accused him on many occasions of being in the pocket of the “one per cent which was an attack on the Syrian community”. He said she went further and called him “an Oreo which is an insult to a black man”.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar

The Prime Minister said he was a proud black man who carried himself in a way that black boys and girls could be proud of what he is and what he represents. “My children are proud of me and I am proud of the life I have led and I have never run away from the colour of my skin, so I don’t know why Mrs Persad-Bissessar feels that discussing or raising the colour of my skin, that that is somehow going to propel her away from defeat,” the Prime Minister said.

He added: “Interestingly in this age with what is happening in America today, in the age of ‘Black Lives Matter’, when the world is changing on this issue, it is really instructive that a person of East Indian descent who is black like me, would use the term black to disparage me. That is what I find surprising.”

On the issue of whether the word used by Persad-Bissessar was “blank” and not “black”, Rowley said he would not engage that “inanity”, adding, “When I reach the point where I don’t trust what my own ears and eyes have told me, well then I know that I should stay out of the conversation.”

Kindergarten and geriatrics

On the Opposition Leader’s description of his slate of candidates as a “bunch of geriatrics”, in response to his labelling of her team as a “kindergarten” group, the Prime Minister said he was the oldest person facing the polls. “Experience is worth a lot especially when you are in difficult times like now,” he said. He said the point he was making with his kindergarten description was that this was not a time to go with a whole team of people who don’t even know what part to enter the Parliament from or who never had any responsibility in any serious way and worse than that, persons who were known failures. He said the PNM had a mix of experience and youth and would not disparage young people. He said he would wager that the PNM had more young people on its slate than the UNC.

‘I was unhappy with Gary Hunt too’

On former PNM Minister Gary Hunt coming out in support of his brother and stating that he was unhappy with his (Rowley’s) leadership, the Prime Minister said: “Well I was unhappy with his (leadership in the Sport Ministry) as well. After you spend two million dollars on a flag, blood is thicker than water so I don’t expect anything else”.

The Prime Minister was referring to the controversial flag in the National Stadium which was acquired during Hunt’s tenure as Minister of Sports. “Gary has been carrying those baggage for quite some time so it is getting a little heavy now. But I have no problem with somebody supporting his brother or his sister because your family tends to be your first call,” the Prime Minister said.

On allegations of impropriety against the Toco/Sangre Grande candidate, Roger Munroe, the Prime Minister said Munroe remained the PNM candidate. “I have seen family disputes being presented. But I am sure that he would be able to satisfy the public,” the Prime Minister said.

PM: I will leave if I lose

Asked if he is unsuccessful in the General Election whether he would he remain in politics, the Prime Minister said: “If I am unsuccessful? The answer to that is no. But that is not on the table now. But in any case after 40 years of public service, I have always told the population, anytime you no longer require my service, I would thank you most sincerely for the opportunity you have given me.”

“But I do know that they are still providing me with support and I expect that on Monday August 10, I will be elected again to continue to represent Diego Martin West at the highest level of the country.”

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