PM Rowley sorry for ‘sari skit’

 (Trinidad Guardian) Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last night unreservedly apologised to the Hindu community for a skit performed at the People’s National Movement (PNM) family day, saying the skit was disrespectful to that religion but it was done out of ignorance and not malicious intent.

Rowley gave the apology during a PNM political meeting held at the Malabar Community Centre last night. “Tonight, on behalf of the People’s National Movement and all concerned, I unreservedly apologise to the Hindu community,” he said.

Rowley said the party’s Tabaquite constituency put on the skit which saw a woman having her yellow sari being removed to highlight that constituency changing political allegiance to the PNM from the United National Congress (UNC).

However, Rowley said while that was the intention behind the skit, he now understands how it could be seen as mirroring the Mahabharata.

PM Dr Keith Rowley addresses supporters during a public meeting at the Malabar Community Centre in Arima last night.

Rowley said he did not know of the story of the Mahabharata before, but loud chorus of opposition to the skit caused him to find out about it. Rowley said the Mahabharata “is a serious spiritual, religious expression” that is extremely significant to the Hindu community.

Rowley said he did not know this before and last week was a learning experience for him.

As such, Rowley said this country’s education system needs to ensure all aspects of the country’s diverse religious and ethical beliefs are taught.

Rowley, however, said while the skit was insulting the PNM were not advocating for either rape or violence towards women.

He said no one can disregard the hurt that was caused by the skit and said the situation needs to be a learning experience for all.

Rowley thanked Sat Maharaj for understanding that the PNM did not intend to disrespect Hindus and said all disrespect was unintentional.

He, however, slammed former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran for saying the skit was Rowley fantasizing about sexually assaulting Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Rowley said the skit was equivalent to someone having a skit around Christmas time and having someone pretending to be inebriated urinating on the crèche with Jesus Christ.

He said he had now problem apologising for the wrong that was committed.

DEMAND FOR APOLOGY

Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, founder of the Satya Anand Ashram Temple of Truth and Bliss in Aranguez, and Persad-Bissessar got their wish last night when Rowley apologised for the PNM’s controversial skit.

Maharaj and Persad-Bissessar, however, could not be reached for comments last night.

The two were joined by scores of people who took part in a placard protest in front the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair last Thursday. The protest followed last weekend’s PNM’s Family Day, when a skit was performed depicting a woman’s yellow sari being undone by men dressed as gorillas. This caused a firestorm of negative sentiment, though the Government rejected the criticism. National Security Minister Stuart Young said it was a “lil bit of fun”, while Rowley claimed people were “hell-bent” on creating racial, religious tensions and dismissed it as “foolishness”.

The group delivered a letter to the PM’s office last Thursday seeking an apology.

It noted the skit offended many as it was seen as simulation of violence against women, mockery of Hinduism, and depiction of political violence. Plus, they said, Young’s dismissal compounded Government’s insensitivity on the matter.

The letter warned, “Government’s hostile, belligerent and intractable position in this issue only contributes to stoking fires of division. It does no good to the PNM to attempt to victimise the victim further by labelling legitimate concerns as ‘foolish’ or ‘racial.’

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