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Coudray defends Kamla’s wear at Mandela service

Thursday, December 12, 2013
Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Local Government Marlene Coudray build lego blocks with first-year pupils of San Fernando Girls’ Primary School during her visit to the school yesterday. Coudray also opened the school’s activity room. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Acting Prime Minister Marlene Coudray has come out in defence of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who has been criticised on social media for wearing a traditional African outfit at the Nelson Mandela memorial service on Tuesday. Persad-Bissessar, who joined world leaders at the FNB stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, on Tuesday for the memorial for Mandela who died last week, wore ethnic wear complete with headdress. Her attire sparked heated debate on social media networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. 



Many felt she was not appropriately dressed, since all the other world leaders were dressed in business suits. But Coudray, speaking with reporters during a tour of schools in San Fernando yesterday, described the criticism of the Prime Minister as “narrow-minded.” 
She said it was not unusual for Persad-Bissessar to wear ethnic garb. “The Prime Minister is free to wear whatever she feels comfortable wearing. She has always worn ethnic clothes. The media ought to know that better than I do,” she said.


Coudray added that Persad-Bissessar was a “free spirit” and dressed to please herself. She added: “She is in South Africa and if she felt that was what she should do, then so be it. I do not see any problem with that.” The acting Prime Minister also defended former Opposition senator Pennelope Beckles who came under fire for attending a table-beating and curry duck competition, hosted by Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, on Saturday at the Fun Splash water park, Debe.


Beckles, in a T&T Guardian interview on Monday, affirmed her loyalty to the People’s National Movement (PNM), adding she was invited to the event by known PNM supporter and owner of Fun Splash, Vijay Ramai. Coudray said the criticism of Beckles-Robinson was “unfortunate” and the work of narrow-minded people. She added: “We live right here and we are bound to meet, to relate to each other. It is her choice if she wants to fraternise with whomever. 


“I think people need to be free to associate with whomever. Here we have freedom of association guaranteed under our Constitution. “I think it is very narrow-minded for people to read motives into her (attendance) in what could be a very social act.” Yesterday Coudray visited Ste Madeleine Government Primary School, which she attended, San Fernando Girls’ Government Primary School and Renaissance School. She was welcomed at the schools with thunderous applause and Christmas carols from pupils.


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