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Warner should be dousing racial flames
In the aftermath of a bruising, divisive THA election campaign, there is need for introspection, as well as sober and level-headed analysis of the events that transpired in Tobago over the past few weeks. It is now time for all parties to focus on the development of all of T&T. A climate must created for healing and reconciliation, so that all involved can move on from the unfortunate comments made recently on political platforms.
That is why it was so disconcerting that United National Congress chairman Jack Warner, who also serves as a senior cabinet minister, chose to add fuel to the already raging controversies from that election with his comment that tribalism influenced the outcome of the polls. The statement made on Wednesday by Mr Warner represents a giant leap backward, fanning rather than quelling the flames of racism.
It is curious too that the UNC chairman’s comments differ greatly from those made by UNC leader Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who, on Monday night, congratulated Mr Orville London and the PNM, and said, “Tobagonians, in an overwhelming majority, chose to stay with the Orville London-led THA. And as I have always said, the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Also disturbing is the fact that Warner actually played the race card when he accused Tobagonians of playing the race card. His statement did nothing to ease what he described as “the notion of fear among the African population.”
While the minister is entitled to his opinions on the outcome of the THA election, his words should have been framed in the context of T&T as a multi-ethnic society, with a population that freely expresses diverse philosophical, religious and political positions. As an elected official in a democratic country, it is unfortunate that he chose to heap such scorn on voters who did not support his political allies.
As a person in authority, particularly as one holding the important portfolio of national security, he must lead by example, modelling appropriate behaviours and “walking the talk” in all his public activities. Unfortunately, he chose to unleash an emotional reaction rather than offer the logical solutions required to lead T&T in a healthier direction.
Too often, as was demonstrated by the level of campaigning on all sides in the THA campaign, relevant issues and discussions get lost because political leaders in this country are unwilling, or unable, to eradicate the misconceptions and intellectual dishonesty hindering T&T. Mr Warner and all other politicians—PNM, PP and otherwise—must wake up to the fact that divisive behaviour is not a solution to T&T’s ills. Instead, this country needs leaders who are prepared to display more sincere and educated actions.
Too often, in the rush to score quick political points, there are unfortunate actions and statements which demonstrate a total lack of perspective on issues of racism and all other forms of discrimination. In the complex society that is T&T, where many races and creeds reside together on two small islands, politicians must work to eradicate that irrational fear of the other that leads to unfortunate public claims about Calcutta ships and tribalism.
The politicians who will take this country into a successful future will be the ones who genuinely embrace and celebrate the diversity of Trinidadians and Tobagonians and reject every divisive system and belief.
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