Saying five victims of bullying committed suicide within the last two years, Princes Town MP Barry Padarath launched his anti-bullying campaign in his constituency yesterday. The launch took place at the Iere Village Government Primary School.
Saying it was "the genesis of something great," Padarath vowed to put anti-bullying on the front burner.
The media was not allowed into the school. However speaking to reporters after the launch, Padarath revealed that five people committed suicide in Mathilda, Princes Town because of bullying.
"I spoke to the children about the need to have respect and tolerance for one another. I reminded them about the words of our national pledge. I spoke to them for about five minutes about the importance of being kind to one another."
He said scores of people have contacted him pledging support for his initiative. However, Padarath said he was disappointed that his Parliamentary colleagues Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith did not come aboard.
"They have demonstrated by their actions that they are unable to uphold their oath in office to serve all manner of people," Padarath said.
He also called on government to give its position on bullying and to say whether it will support anti-bullying legislation.
Padarath said he intended to speak to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to bring anti-bullying legislation to Parliament.
He also said he was willing to work with any other representative or organisation with the intention of raising awareness on the anti-bullying campaign, including youth pioneer Jeremy Rodriguez.
Since he announced his drive, Padarath was criticised by Rodriguez's family for politicising the anti-bullying campaign.
Padarath was also criticised by the Coalition Advocating for Sexual Inclusion (Caiso) for "turning the bullying tables."
"Mr Padarath's letters to his colleagues have turned the bullying tables. Following their public taunts of him in the House chamber and tearoom this past week, he is now holding down the heads of Ministers Smith and Imbert in the schoolyard sand, insisting they say uncle," said Colin Robinson, executive director of Caiso in a press release earlier this week.
Robinson said Padarath's actions showed how "bullying escalates in schools."
"Counter-bullying can't be the solution either for those who are bullied in school or for how our politicians respond to this serious problem," he said.
Paradath stated that he did not deliver an ultimatum to either Smith or Imbert. He reaffirmed that what he made was a request.