Wednesday 7th June, 2006

Clevon Raphael
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Don’t go there, Kamla

Criticising women is not something I relish so it was with a somewhat heavy heart I recently took junior Trade Minister Diane Seukeran to task—and she took it in the spirit it was done.

Unfortunately, today I have to add another female leader to that select list—newly appointed Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Like Miss Seukeran, Mrs Persad-Bissessar is a woman I admire and I was indeed pleased when she got the post, even though I believe Winston Dookeran should have been given the nod and put to rest this nonsense about two people holding the positions of Opposition Leader and political leader.

This is a recipe for mass confusion and all this infighting within the loyal opposition party can be attributed in part to this stupid and unprecedented two-tier leadership.

Men have been mucking up this place for too long, so why not give a woman a chance. If only because of their maternal instincts, it is reasonable to assume their leadership style would be devoid of the pettiness and vindictive tendencies that have characterised the stewardship of our so-called (male) leaders.

Shortly after getting the job, Mrs Persad-Bissessar began making the right noises, especially talking about unifying the party. That sounded real nice.

But lo and behold, I was jolted out of my comfort zone when she did something I didn’t think she was capable of—playing the race card.

I might be wrong and please correct me, Mrs Persad-Bissessar, but that is the only conclusion I can come to and knowing you as I do I was really taken back by your comments.

How could you in all sincerity say there is a systematic plan by the Government to fire Trinis of East Indian descent from certain state entities?

Minister of Public Utilities Pennelope Beckles has challenged you to bring the evidence to support that rather outlandish accusation. And I support her in this instance. I cannot imagine any right thinking government deliberately courting the ire of any section of this cosmopolitan society by institutionalising discrimination of any form.

It is easy for some of our Indian brothers and sisters to feel very uncomfortable with the way some things are done at the national level but to say there is a concerted plan to deny them their legitimate rights is taking it too far.

Mrs Persad-Bissessar, I don’t want you to fall into the trap of appealing to tribal instincts because it will get you nowhere—and very fast.

The vast majority of citizens are fed up with this racial bogey and to be quite frank it has gotten us nowhere. It engenders divisiveness and discord within the society. We have enough of that being spewed by some of those silly talk show hosts.

As someone aspiring to assume leadership of the country you must be a unifying force and not one for driving a wedge between the two major ethnic groups. I might be harsh on you but I feel very passionate about this racial old talk coming especially from our politicians.

Where is the empirical evidence of this plot to fire East Indians?

The political leader of your party—Winston Dookeran—is speaking about a new kind of politics and you would do well to forget the old tribal-type politics and follow his lead.

You have the potential to be a good leader but if this is the line you are taking I humbly suggest you think again. I am not batting for the PNM but let’s be fair. Look at how many of our East Indian brothers and sisters are in Manning’s cabinet. Is that discrimination?

Don’t tell me they are there for window dressing purposes only.

I would be the first one to speak out against injustice where I see it and unless you can come up with proof that there is widespread discrimination, you must cease from driving along that dangerous path.

I am willing to admit that T&T has a racial issue but not a racial problem and when responsible leaders go out of their way to fan those partisan flames no one knows what the result would be.

Fortunately, we have demonstrated that ability to manage our diversity without much difficulty and this is largely due to the fact that we are basically a peace-loving people.

Unfortunately, there are some politicians who use the race bait, especially at election time, to whip up the ignorant segment of their supporters.

I do not want to put you in that category because I honestly don’t think you are that type of a person. However, I will be watching you very closely to see how far you are prepared to take this racial imbalance talk.

Fight for equality—for all the groups—but please do not descend into that arena.

Thank God we are a very literate people and despite the arrant nonsense that comes from the egg heads in our society, politicians of that ilk would never see an all-out racial confrontation, like we are seeing in other places, happening here.

Please, Mrs Persad-Bissessar, let your voice be a uniting force, not a divisive one. We cannot take more pressure. It is too much already.





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