“Our loss is the country’s gain.”
So said Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley about the nomination of Justice Paula-Mae Weekes as the sixth President of T&T.
Two ministers, including the president of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) of T&T, have called on citizens of the country not to condemn their compatriots, saying the country needs healing. Chaplain for the military, Canon Major John Rohim, called on citizens not to condemn the national security forces and to, instead, offer a word of commendation to them.
IRO president Harrypersad Maharaj also called on citizens to “not only condemn and criticise” but did not specifically state who should not be condemned. Both men were speaking on Sunday at an inter-faith service held at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, in memory of officers (policemen, members of the Defence Force, fire officers among others) who have died over the last decade. The National Security Officers Foundation headed by Curtis Belford organised the service.
During the service, a video presentation was shown highlighting the officers who had died between 2001-2012, as well as paying tribute to the six officers who died in the 1988 Camp Omega bush fire. Saying what he was about to say was not tied with recent headlines, Maharaj began his closing prayer by calling on the country not to condemn. He said his statements were for the country and not only for the officers gathered at Queen’s Hall.
“I am calling upon T&T, do not only condemn and criticise. We need a healing in this land,” he said. Using biblical scripture, Maharaj said man did not live by bread alone. He called on officers to be more active and proactive. He said the officers missed a “wonderful opportunity to win the heart of the country” a couple of days ago. He said when things were delayed, that is when a negative image develops. “Where are the words of compassion and love? Two wrongs do not make a right…” Maharaj added.
His comment, however, seemed to be in reference of the police’s failure to act swiftly in the Sea Lots accident which claimed the lives of Haydee Paul and her daughters and injured three others. Over a month had passed and police had failed to lay any charges in the matter, prompting Sea Lots residents to claim their fears of a cover up were justified. Eventually, Director of Public Prosecutions stepped in last week and eventually ordered the cops to charge their colleague, PC Sherwin Legere, in the matter.
Rohim questioned how officers felt when, he said, “all they get is condemnation and criticism.” He added that it was also good to offer words of commendation. Rohim said people needed to learn to recognise the good in each other and not the ugliness. He added, however, that “because of jealousy we are destroying ourselves.” “Use the eyes of God when dealing with each other…Use the heart of God when dealing with each other…Use the hand of God when dealing with each other,” he said.
He also questioned how society values the officers. “Only when we need police, we recognise how important they are,” he said. He called on people to be more appreciative of the officers. In delivering the Hindu prayer, pundit Vishnu Narine quoted a popular line from Lord John Acton: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Prayers were offered from all major faiths (Muslim, Christian and Hindu). Spiritual Baptist Archbishop and former senator Barbara Gray-Burke delivered the Christian prayer. The T&T Defence Force Steel Orchestra, Princess Priya Dance Group, Day Break Assembly Choir and Al-Faisaliyyah Nasheed Group offered devotional entertainment.