Rowley on sari skit: People trying to stir up racial hatred

The controversial skit put on by members of PNM’s Tabaquite constituency during the party’s sports and family day at Edinburgh 500 Recreational Grounds in Chaguanas on Sunday.

(Trinidad Guardian) Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Tuesday accused certain individuals of trying to stir up racial hatred in the country over a People’s National Movement (PNM) skit.

His comments came hours after several groups and individuals condemned the skit and demanded that Rowley apologise.

The UNC Women’s Arm said the skit depicted the sexual assault against a woman dressed in a yellow sari by two individuals dressed as red gorillas at the PNM’s family day on Sunday.

The Hindu Students’ Council of T&T also expressed displeasure and disappointment at the skit, while UNC activist Devant Maharaj wrote the Equal Opportunities Commission to investigate the matter, stating that such expressions of hate and ridicule should not be accepted.

At a key distribution ceremony in Arima yesterday, Rowley when told by the media that the skit had offended some religious groups which were calling on him to apologise, the PM said “there are people in this country who would not pass up any opportunity to try and see if they could create racial or religious strife because that serves their political purpose.”

Rowley said the People’s National Movement would “disregard such foolishness and we would not take any responsibility for persons who are trying to create discord.”

Rowley said there was a skit in the PNM’s march past, stating that “if persons who would go into the depths of the Ramayan to try to link that to something. I want to say to all those persons when they speak about the PNM and the PNM’s action which is insulting to Indians, just remember half of the PNM Government is Indian.”

He said if those Indians are insulting the Indian population, “please have a conversation with them.”

Rowley said the PNM was a national political party that represents every creed and race.

“That story is the best they can do because they were shocked at the PNM’s family day which was a resounding success and the best they could do is to find that foolishness to come and try and stir up racial hatred in the country because that is what they live by,” Rowley said.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in a statement, said the “‘skit’ depicted an unwarranted and dangerous propagation of the negative, vile and offensive stereotyping that Afro-Trinidadian males have had to endure since the days of slavery and colonialism against their appearance.

She said the “wanton attack on the religion of a significant portion of the population; the propagation of negative stereotypes essentially against Afro-Trinidadian males and the depiction and endorsement of the criminal act of assault against women constitute a deliberate abuse and misuse of the constitutional guarantee of equality, fairness and justice afforded to all citizens all at the hands of the Prime Minister of this country.

“This is a frightening state of affairs, moreso in a country overridden with crime and criminality; it essentially amounts to an abdication of duty of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago that Rowley swore to uphold. He has effectively sown the seeds of division and tension in a country already battered by his incompetent, punitive regime and his complete lack of any plan and proper policy to govern any aspect of this country,” the statement said.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, the spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram, called on women dressed in yellow saris to show up at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair today to demand an apology from Rowley and his Government.

The Hindu Women’s Organisation says the skit discredited the work done by various groups to enhance the treatment of women in T&T.

In a media release on Tuesday, the organisation condemned the enactment of the skit that they said portrayed the forceful undressing of a woman in a yellow sari by two men in red-toned gorilla suits.

According to secretary Keir Roopnarine, the yellow symbolised the colour of the UNC while the red represented the PNM.

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