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Long-standing member of the People’s National Movement (PNM), Louis Lee Sing says an apology must be forthcoming from the leadership for trying to invoke race in the party’s internal election campaign. This followed a statement by PNM member Fitzgerald Hinds that businessmen and former PNM ministers at a recent meeting agreed that while party leader Dr Keith Rowley was doing a good job in the party, he was too dark in complexion to become prime minister.
Hinds made the statement in the presence of Rowley at the party’s Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West constituency meeting last week at Belmont Secondary School. Rowley, who spoke after Hinds, made no reference to the claim. But Lee Sing responded in a brief interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, saying he was not calling for anyone to apologise.
“Everyone who is involved are adults as and if you are sober, level-headed and educated as you claim, you will know when you have committed a wrong, and when you commit a wrong you must always get on bended knees and apologise,” he added. Insisting that while the leaders should know what they have done, Lee Sing said in the same sentence “well maybe they don’t know what they were doing, that is possible.”
He said in a democratic state, if someone was flawed in judgment he should resign but that does not happen in this country. The former mayor said the “wild, irrational and destructive statements, we are doing no good for the party.” According to Lee Sing: “These statements weren’t made in a vacuum, they would have been well thought out and it was intended to garner certain responses. “Unfortunately, I believe little focus was given on the repercussions of the statements.”
Rowley’s skin colour, Lee Sing said, was not an issue in any election to elect a national leader. “So that if we are to be true to the national anthem, no one should hold Dr Rowley’s blackness against him,” he insisted. The issue was not to be debated in the campaign, Lee Sing said. He said the statement was made as part of a campaign to invoke “the racial bogey in the expectation that it will garner increased support for Dr Rowley. That is most unfortunate.”
But Lee Sing issued a call for the leaders to stop the race campaign, insisting that super PNM delegates, including himself “will not tolerate any nonsense.” He recalled that the last time he gave Rowley the benefit of his support, he was accused of leaking information to the media and efforts were made to have him removed as mayor of Port-of-Spain.
That was in reference to a letter he wrote to Rowley in 2012, criticising him about the timing of a no confidence motion he unsuccessfully brought against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Lee Sing said he had taken a decision to ensure the founding principles of the party “remain whole and are not watered down, dismantled and trampled upon by people in their desire to secure leadership positions within the party.”
He said he was aware that whoever wins the May 18 PNM leadership election could become prime minister in 2015.