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Govt, PNM supporters protest outside Parliament
The scene outside Parliament yesterday resembled a circus, with government ministers attempting daring feats as they attempted to weave through hordes of PNM supporters, musicians in yellow T-shirts beating out rhythms on tassa drums and sno cone and candy vendors selling refreshments. Outside the Parliament building, police placed metal barriers in a rectangle, keeping the hundreds of people, most wearing either red or yellow clothing, several metres away from the entrance.
Government and Opposition supporters spilled onto Wrightson Road, holding placards, as distracted drivers slowed down to watch, causing traffic to move slowly on both sides of the road. The crowd was split down the middle, with the colour of their clothing and messages on their placards marking the dividing line. At the point where yellow clashed against red, people ignored each other. The groups behaved similarly, cheering when their party officials walked past and booing when members of the other political party appeared.
The only difference was that the PNM cheers and jeers were noticeably louder. Although the PNM supporters tried to form a chain, around Tower D, as instructed by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, their efforts were disorganised. Chants of “We want election now” mixed with chants of “Kamla!” Voices shouting “Anil must go,” was followed by “We love Kamla,” as each group tried to get their voices heard. Union members who had gathered away from the party supporters were subdued.
Colm gets a kiss
Opposition members played it safe, walking through the path cleared by police before engaging supporters, who chanted their names. Former PNM senator Fitzgerald Hinds hugged and kissed supporters before walking in. St Joseph MP Terrence Deyalsingh, Arouca MP Alicia Hospedales, Point Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon and Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne mirrored Hinds’ actions.
When Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert walked past the crowd, a woman leaned forward and planted a kiss on his cheek.
Govt mps arrive
Ministers in the People’s Partnership waved and shook hands with supporters in yellow before walking quickly inside to the jeering from PNM supporters. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, wearing gold African wear to mark Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day on Monday, was flanked by police and National Security Minister Gary Griffith. She stopped to talk to supporters, before walking hurriedly into the building, ignoring the crowd in red.
But Sport Minister Anil Roberts chose a different route, straight through the PNM supporters, despite the barriers blocking entry to Parliament and the jeering crowd. Police standing close to the building looked surprised before rushing toward the minister. Roberts, realising the futility of his attempt, turned around and made his way around the crowd to enter the building, stopping to talk to the media and accuse PNM supporters of being hooligans.
His route was followed by Arts Minister Dr Lincoln Douglas, who also tried to walk through the crowd as people shouted insults and accused him of destroying Carnival. Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh tried the same tactic, but chose to walk among UNC supporters. He too turned around after reaching the barrier blocking his way.
Why they went
Several UNC supporters, asked why they decided to go to Parliament, answered, “No comment.” One woman, holding a sign which read “We Love Our Government,” was asked why she came out, and gave the same answer. Another self-proclaimed UNC supporter said he was there to support the government. “We came today to support our Prime Minister. They only want to mash up the partnership. We support the PM in whatever action she has taken for the Government,” he said.
“I’m here because enough is enough. These people made promises and they did not deliver. They promised to deal with crime and they have done nothing,” said Angel Lee, a PNM supporter. Wilma Duncan, a T&T citizen living in Canada, stood to the side of both groups wearing all white, with a red, white and black bandanna around her neck. “I came to see what was happening. I read the newspapers and I am tired of this Government. They aren’t doing what they should do,” Duncan said.