"Inhumane, distasteful, callous and insensitive." Those were the words of former prime minister Basdeo Panday as he lambasted National Security Minister Jack Warner for saying Dr Wayne Kublalsingh should take his hunger strike to the next level.
Panday, who met with Kublalsingh twice during his protest outside the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, said the public statements by Warner and Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal were "distasteful." At a political meeting on Monday night, Moonilal ridiculed the Kublalsingh family, calling them a cult, and criticised Kublalsingh's mother for not intervening to stop the hunger strike.
However, Panday said both ministers had disgraced themselves. "Their statements," he said, "are really indicative of their character and how little they care for human life. One would have thought from one human to another they would have been more circumspect but to criticise Kublalsingh's mother is distasteful. But then again, it is the style of the Government."
He defended the 53-year-old former university lecturer, saying Kublalsingh was never one to resort to violence. He added: "Kublalsingh's struggles and efforts are dignified and non-violent. Such struggles have been advocated by Gandhi and Jesus." He contended that the People's Partnership Government seemed afraid of Kublalsingh and his growing support. Panday noted: "People will embark on civil disobedience, not violence."
With regard to statements from Warner that he was a "conman," Panday said: "I would like to say that kind of statement, coming from a person who is being investigated by the FBI, might actually be a compliment." Meanwhile, leader of the PNM Dr Keith Rowley also criticised Warner for his statements on Kublalsingh's hunger strike.
Kublalsingh's hunger strike - Day13
He said the Government would never gain support by making such inhumane statements. He also agreed the tone of political debate was changing for the worse. He added: "Nothing that comes from these two gentlemen surprises me any more. That is their idea of communicating their view. It says more about them than it says about anybody else.
"This shows the limitation of their morals. For a minister of government to say, 'hurry up and kill yourself,' says a lot of us as a society." Rowley said Moonilal liked to act as a comedian and always trivialised serious issues with jokes. He added that the Government had unfairly demonised the Kublalsingh family and had failed to address their concerns.
Contacted yesterday, political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath declined to comment on whether the anti-Kublalsingh meeting was overkill. Saying he did not hear Warner or Moonilal's statements, Ragoonath said it was clear the Prime Minister had taken a position to build the highway.
He added: "My position is the highway will benefit thousands of people. I am assuming that we have a certificate of environmental clearance and an environmental impact assessment." Ragoonath added that once a CEC and EIA were granted he had no problem with the route the Government was taking. Political scientist Derek Ramsamooj declined comment, saying he was out of the country.
Chairman of the Congress of the People Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan was also out of the country and said she would make a statement when she returned today.