Hindu leader lauds Rowley’s apology

Keith Rowley

(Trinidad Guardian) Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s apology to the Hindu community concerning the PNM’s controversial sari skit should be copied by all PNMites including party social media activists, says Pundit Satyanand Maharaj.

Maharaj led last week’s Hindu community protests on the skit, calling on Rowley to apologise.

Maharaj reacted on Sunday after Rowley apologised during last Saturday’s PNM Malabar meeting.

Following the furore over the skit showing men dressed as gorillas unravelling a woman’s sari, Maharaj led a group of protesters from all over T&T—wearing saris and other East Indian traditional wear—outside of Rowley’s office last Thursday.

They believed the skit was a simulation of violence toward women, a mockery of Hinduism and depiction of political violence.

On Sunday Maharaj said: “I wish to unreservedly thank the Prime Minister for his unconditional apology.

“This apology is an about-turn from the description of ‘foolishness’ by the Prime Minister of those who expressed disgust with the skit.”

“National Security Stuart Young who indicated the skit was ‘a bit of fun’ as well as PNM social media activists need to make similar acts of contrition. One can only hope the Prime Minister’s apology will be also copied by the followers,” he said. Young, the Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Communication and National Security, apologised in a Facebook post yesterday.

Maharaj said: “The Prime Minister boasted his government was half Indian and those Indians had no issue or problem with the skit.

The silence or concurrence of the Indian/Hindu voices in the PNM who had advised the Prime Minister that the skit wasn’t offensive, what of their advice and counsel now? Were they simply “yes men” telling the Prime Minister what he wanted to hear? These types of advisers are perhaps the most dangerous.”

Maharaj noted the Prime Minister indicated that he was ignorant of Hindu culture.

“This insularity of the PNM, I recently was confronted with, from Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who indicated similar ignorance of mandirs at homes where property tax was concerned,” he said.

“How can the PNM feign to govern and make laws for the plural country of T&T when it’s disconnected to segments of the population? The Prime Minister, with this statement, has only underscored that the PNM is chiefly governing for one segment of the population. The Prime Minister gave no indication what steps were to be taken to address this serious deficiency,” he added.

PM took too long to say sorry —UNC Tabaquite MP Suruj While the Opposition UNC will be responding on the apology at tonight’s UNC Chaguanas meeting, UNC Tabaquite MP Suruj Rambachan says Rowley took too long to “come around” to apologising.

“He only did so when faced with rebellion inside the PNM and he realised how serious the consequences were.

If it wasn’t detrimental to PNM, he wouldn’t have apologised,” Rambachan added.

“He displayed insensitivity to the matter initially. I hope he now realises T&T’s a very diverse country where respect must be promoted by leaders if they want respect to pervade society and ensure social peace.

“The PNM has used a wave of subtle derogatory remarks to reinforce their base, from Eric Williams referring to the ‘recalcitrant minority’ and MP Fitzgerald Hinds’ ‘alligators from the lagoon’ to PNM Tobago’s ‘Calcutta ship’ reference. This establishes more than artificial divisions in society,” Rambachan said.

“I’m glad he said he’ll be more sensitive to the existence of other cultures and practices. Let’s hope for genuine follow-up.

“But while PNM got more votes—last election—in many areas including Tabaquite, people there are disappointed PNM used their religion in this derogatory way and they’ll express this at the polls.”

PNM Tabaquite chairman silent after Rowley’s apology PNM Tabaquite chairman Curtis Shade whose unit had performed the skit at PNM’s recent Family Day and who defended it, didn’t answer calls yesterday after apologies by Rowley and National Security Minister Young.

Shade had claimed the skit showed how PNM was winning UNC support.

He didn’t explain why people seen unwrapping the woman’s sari in the skit were dressed as gorillas, or addressed concerns this might infer PNMites were gorillas.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar said the situation was an abuse of black males, continuing to portray them as apes.

Last Friday, Shade had refused to respond on calls for an apology, cut off calls and didn’t answer further after asking Guardian Media if an apology was being sought because PNM “was getting” UNC support in Tabaquite.

However, PNM Tabaquite vice chairman Julian Adams who had distanced himself from the skit last Friday and apologised in his personal capacity, said yesterday:

“I’m very grateful for my Prime Minister standing up to do the right thing as I know he does.

“I maintain if people are hurt over something, you must be able to do the right thing and apologise. The prayer ‘Our Father’ speaks to this.”

“I also stand by my view that anyone who felt hurt over this issue—whichever communities, religions or sectors—I apologise.

We’re all one T&T,” he said.

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