by Jai Parasram
How often we have encountered the reality of that profound statement!
Take for example, Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley, who delivered an Easter message full of moral advice on how to live and coexist in our multi-cultural, poly-ethnic society.
The leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) implored leaders to adopt Christian values that he said are enshrined in Trinidad and Tobago’s motto, national anthem and constitution. These lessons, he said, “have taught us to pray, to allow love and peace to reign, to be our brother’s keeper, and to respect others, understanding that it must first begin with us”.
Yes, that’s Keith Rowley!
Here is an excellent example of a man whose Easter message resonated with all that’s good, presenting himself as a teacher of morality. But once you remove the halo you find the man whose principles are defined by his loose talk tinged with sexual undertones, a deadbeat parent who suddenly discovered his 45-year old son, and a frolicking masquerader who has no regrets about wining on a teenager.
Rowley’s handlers are working overtime trying to rebrand him as a more humane, kinder, gentler Keith Rowley and hopefully erase the Wajang and Raging Bull labels that seem to have stuck on him. He has said politics is about being the “roughest, toughest” bulldog, changing the Rottweiler title conferred on him many years ago by those who saw him as an argumentative and angry man whose public life has been marked by his belligerent and hostile attitude.
We are a society with a short attention span so many of us may have already forgotten the teacup brawl involving Rowley in the tea room of the Parliament or his more recent platform declaration that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar “could jump high, she could jump low… she could bark at my dog because I will ignore she kyat.”
And we have likely forgotten Hilton Sandy’s racist statement during the 2013 Tobago House of Assembly election in which he warned Tobagonians to be wary of Indians because if Tobagonians didn’t vote PNM “Calcutta Ship”(read Indians) coming to take over the island. Rowley sat on the stage during that sad moment in our history and then stood up and praised him as a great role model for the youth.
And now he is presenting himself as an angel, urging each of us to follow “Christian values” and to “respect others”. Where was Dr. Rowley’s respect for our youth on Carnival Tuesday when he was wining down the place with 17-year old Ravina Rampersad? Where was his morality when he was impregnating a teenager? Where was his respect for women when he uttered his “dog and cyat” comment?
We are going to hear more from Dr. Rowley and other politicians like him who would try to seduce the electorate with talk of love, peace and unity while doing everything to divide us along race and religious lines.
I hope we have grown up and passed that hurdle.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has demonstrated in five years that she has a genuine desire to unite the country and to do it with love and compassion. Her leadership is people centred and service driven.
In 2010 when she won the leadership of her United National Congress (UNC), Mrs. Persad-Bissessar not only united her party and embraced all who opposed her, she went beyond that and created a coalition of national interest in which each group maintained its identity and philosophy while uniting for the common purpose of presenting a national front to take Trinidad and Tobago forward. It was the widest cross section of the national population through which every class and sector had a voice.
Five years later that coalition remains strong and united and through consultation, debates and disagreements it has found the right formula to effectively govern our diverse nation state.
By contrast, Dr. Rowley has distanced himself from people and inside his party he has cast aside those perceived to be responding to another drumbeat. He has dumped almost all of the incumbent MPs in favour of a slate of political rookies so that he could maintain discipline according to the “not a damn dog bark” philosophy he learned from Eric Williams. The problem is he is no Eric Williams and never will be.
While Kamla governed for five years encouraging dialogue and debate within her caucus, Rowley has shown zero tolerance for dissent; those who don’t toe the line and show full loyalty to him must leave regardless of what the members of the party think.
The mistake his handlers continue to make is that they are focusing on image alone trying to remake a man who will unmask himself the moment he faces the political stress of an election campaign.
The people can see under the mask. Rowley still needs to present a vision for taking T&T forward and a plan that’s original and achievable. Finding fault while trying to be an angel would keep him right where he is today.