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PM: No racial, ethnic sacrifice to win election

Published: 
Saturday, July 14, 2018
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, left, introduce Kimberly Small, second from left, and Nicole Young the PNM’s candidates for Monday’s Barataria and Belmont East local government by-election to supporters during the party’s public meeting at St Francois Girls’ College in Belmont on Thursday night. PICTURE KERWIN PIERRE

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says his Government “ will never sacrifice the racial, ethnic and religious stability of T&T in attempting to win an election.”

Addressing a political meeting in Belmont on Thursday night he accused the UNC of “starting a race war in El Socorro.”

He accused the Opposition of being “prepared to risk the country’s social ethnic and religious stability to win one local government seat.”

He said he understood the problem, “if you lose eight times in a row you can’t risk loss number nine,” but he said it was at the price of telling Muslims in El Socorro that the anti-terrorism act is anti-Muslim and the government attacking Muslims.”

Rowley also took to task one Muslim leader who criticised him after he described the Boardwalk killings was akin to terrorism.

He said he made no apologies for his statement. “I say a man in using an automatic weapon to spray a crowd of innocent people trying to kill somebody and you end up killing three people and four almost got killed and others could have been killed, this indiscriminate killing isn’t that what terrorism is, indiscriminate killing of innocent participants that is what it is,” the PM said.

The Prime Minister said there are guns in this country “that can shoot many rounds within seconds” and anyone who has such a weapon “could act like a terrorist.”

His statements about the Opposition and the race war were in sync with a letter which residents in El Socorro have been receiving in their mailbox in the lead-up to the bye-election in Barataria in which residents were told that their decision “should be decided on real issues, on the truth and not on messages of fear and religion.”

Although there was no signature, the letter head was ‘From the desk of Dr Keith Rowley Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Political Leader of the peoples National Movement.

Addressed to ‘Dear resident,” the letter described Barataria as an “ethnically, culturally, religiously diverse and suburban neighbourhood.”

The letter, which residents said they found in their mailboxes, listed eight challenges which “as a society and government we face.”

Those included “overcoming the scourge of violent crime,” protection and education of children, restructuring the energy economy, looking after the vulnerable in society, confronting and changing the culture of corruption in public affairs, diversification of the economy, and building public institutions to work “in the people’s interest and not against it.”

A concern was conveyed in the letter that while no path is without challenge, T&T has of late been “tarnished by the few trying to divide us or inflame emotions,” to choose a government “along lines of religion, misinformation and fear.”

Barataria is a widely Muslim community. Homes in Mohammedville and the Nur ul Islam Mosque were among those raided during the so called terrorist threat over the Carnival period.

The letter stated: “As your Prime Minister, but more importantly as a fellow citizen, I have seen an alarming willingness of a few in the public space to use their religion, misinformation and fear to obscure the real issues and divide this nation along fault lines that fit their own narrow interest or personal agendas.”

It said: “The growing intensity of their actions and the indifference towards the threat it presents to our social stability should be seen and rejected by all.”

The letter detailed historically from the Peoples Charter by Dr Eric Williams in 1956 which were enshrined in the Constitution highlighting the national watchword ‘tolerance’ stating that as a country we had moved “far beyond” the meaning of the word.

It said as a national T&T had crossed boundaries and celebrate each other’s culture, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Shouter Baptist , Indian Arrival Day, Emancipation Day and more recently the First Peoples holiday, “our children grow up as we did celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr, Christmas and Divali.”

It included the Prime Ministerial oath, and sought to assure that “as your Prime Minister I lead a Government and a party,” that not only has an “abiding loyalty,” to the oath but “we have always believed that religious liberty is an indivisible right under the Constitution.”

Those things the people of Barataria were told were being brought to their attention to show that the society as it is today was “built one block at a time on ideals like tolerance, discipline and production.”

The letter noted: “Our success as a society does not only lie within the usual boundaries of just respecting our differences, but because we have crossed those boundaries and grown to celebrate and embrace them as our own.”

Residents were told “you will have a choice to make in the upcoming by-election, I believe that this seat, like all seats, should be decided on real issues, on the truth and not on messages of fear and religion.”

The letter added: “No election should be decided on religion, fear or misinformation,” but about making a choice to voting to “continue on a path to progress, prosperity, stability, tolerance and service,” and “selecting a trusted political party to best serve you,” as it urged residents to vote for Kimberly Small. See Page A10

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