Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says issues of race and slavery are being used to by United National Congress leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to appeal to the emotions of Afro-Trinidadians in this country to discourage them from voting.
He made the comment during a People’s National Movement political meeting in Mason Hall on Tuesday night, as he responded to Persad-Bissessar’s allegations that the PNM was using race baiting as part of their current tactics.
“As Opposition Leader I accepted an invitation to the Divali Nagar site and Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her cronies refused to attend the Nagar because I was invited to it,” Rowley said as he gave an example of the type of behaviour the UNC exhibited towards him as an Afro-Trinidadian leader.
Addressing Persad-Bissessar’s race baiting allegation directly, he asked, “Kamla is that you?”
Recalling an invitation one year to attend the annual Divali Nagar in Chaguanas, Rowley said Persad Bissessar and some members of her party had refused to attend while he was there.
He added that Persad-Bissessar, “who now suddenly is the defender of African people in this country, she suddenly discover that slave masters didn’t give us nothing when they put us off the land and she is going to make sure that black people get land in Trinidad and Tobago.”
However, he questioned the genuineness of her statement, asking whether her government distributed former Caroni 1975 Limited lands equitably.
“For five years she oversaw land distribution in Caroni, she must tell us how much of the land she gave to black people.”
According to Rowley, the Opposition leader is also using the common stereotype of the African male being driven by sex and unfit to lead. He recalled that when he was in Opposition, UNC MP Vernella Alleyne-Toppin came to Parliament and “accused me and my father of rape.”
He also accused the Opposition of “offering money left, right and centre” to not vote, as that will result in the PNM losing the elections.
“If that is the type of politics that is so transparent in this country now and if you can be encouraged to not exercise your democratic right so that somebody else can win, so that they can come and thief out the treasury again.”
He called on all parents to encourage their children to participate in the electoral process, as many of our forefathers paid a heavy price for the privilege.