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PM, entourage leave for South Africa
It came as “quite a shock” to Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) president Kafra Kambon when an official from the Prime Minister’s Office called him and told him he was being invited to accompany the Prime Minister and her entourage to South Africa.
“I was in Tobago when someone called me. It was quite a shock. But some surprises are good. I think it was a very good gesture on the part of the Government to take people they feel have some connection based on what they have been involved in, those representing the state and civil society, regardless of their political affiliation,” Kambon said in an interview. The ESC has supported the anti-apartheid struggle.
Kambon, will leave this morning for South Africa with Persad-Bissessar, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and People’s National Movement PRO Faris al Rawi for the state memorial service for Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they will participate in the viewing of his body. Mandela, South Africa’s first Black president and iconic freedom fighter, died at age 95 last Thursday.
Tobago East MP Vernella Alleyne-Toppin and Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz, also part of the entourage, left for South Africa earlier and are already there, the PM told the media yesterday at a toy distribution event at the National Stadium on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain. Answering questions from the media above the din of happy children, she listed the names of the six who will be going to Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa and said the Government was told only six people could have attended.
Asked if her invitation to Rowley was the beginning of the reconciliation Mandela preached, based on political tensions between the Government and the Opposition, she only said it was “most appropriate” to invite him. The PM said she has requested of National Security Minister Capt Gary Griffith that, while they would be paying tribute to Mandela on Tuesday and Wednesday, T&T’s national flags be flown at half mast. Local Government Minister Marlene Coudray has been appointed to act as prime minister in her absence.
To beat any travel constraints that may have been caused by the short time they had to prepare, Persad-Bissessar said her staff worked assiduously to make the travel arrangements. Most of them on going on the trip have also received yellow fever vaccines, a strict requirement by the South African government for visitors to prevent the importation of the disease. Asked the cost of the trip, the PM said she could not give an estimate at the time but noted the visit was of “great value”.
Kambon said there was no way he could have made it to South Africa at this time on his own and said he felt privileged and glad for the opportunity to be a part of the great event of Mandela’s funeral. He said it would be good for the ESC and for the society.
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