Liberal use of the word “coolie” and other extreme language by a Guyanese speaker at the Independent Liberal Party’s public meeting on Tuesday night forced interim leader Jack Warner to issue a hasty apology yesterday and to ban his friend from speaking at future meetings. In his apology, Warner said he was offended by the language of his platform speaker Jailall Kissoon.
Warner’s aide Sunil Ramjitsingh also said yesterday that Kissoon, who was a member of the former Desmond Hoyte administration of Guyana, would not be on tomorrow’s ILP meeting agenda, confirming the distance Warner had since put between himself and Kissoon’s controversial presentation during the ILP’s Chaguanas West by-election meeting at New Settlement, Caroni.
During the meeting, which was broadcast live, Kissoon heavily laced his entire contribution with extreme language. He started by reading an excerpt of a poem in which one line he quoted was: “Rum kill me papa, rum kill me ajah, rum kill me nana, um kill the breadwinner in the coolie family.” Saying at one point to the audience, “I had to ask you Indians…,” Kissoon queried if Warner did not have the heart to love as equally as “the Indians.” He said Warner was a “black coolie man” who had put the PP in power.
Kissoon also told the audience: “A black man give you box drain in coolie constituency—Chaguanas!” The audience cheered loudly then. Kissoon called on attendees not to let the name of the United National Congress degenerate to what he renamed as “United Nation of Coolies.” He said that was the way people were being influenced, and also to think of the PNM as “Party of Negro Movement.”
Claiming others wanted race to factor in the by-election, Kissoon declared: “That is bulls…!” He said when a black man was given the National Security Ministry, “nobody was frightened he would take over Indian government—how suddenly the man get bad?” Kissoon asked if Warner ever stole “from Indians or the black man,” adding, “So if he make he money from the white man, nothing wrong with that—is compensation!”
As Kissoon spoke at this stage, Warner sat, unsmiling, with his hands covering his mouth and lower face. Three-quarters of the way through Kissoon’s speech, an aide came to Kissoon’s side and handed him a note. Kissoon continued his address, but switched to rebutting UNC claims about which Guyanese administration he’d worked with. He said he’d worked with one-time Guyanese president Desmond Hoyte and that Hoyte was supported by T&T’s Maha Sabha leader Sat Maharaj and Pundit Gautaram Sharma.
Contacted yesterday, Maharaj said he did not comment on every little thing people said about him. After the ILP meeting, a release sent to newsrooms at 4 am yesterday conveyed Warner’s apology for the statements made on his platform. Warner said: “I wish to extend my sincerest apologies for anything which may have been said on my platform last night which would have affected the sensitivities of the people of T&T in general and Chaguanas West in particular.
“The language used specifically in one presentation did not represent the normal high standards with which you have come to identify from the ILP platform and certainly cannot be endorsed by the leadership of the ILP. “As much as one may understand the attempt by the speaker to use vernacular with a view of reaching the people, the sobriquets used to describe the racial enclaves were definitely unacceptable and not consistent with the philosophy of the ILP,” Warner said.
“In this regard, I wish to extend my deepest apologies to the people of Chaguanas West in particular and T&T, in general, who like me were offended by the language of one of my platform speakers last night.” Kissoon had also appeared on a previous ILP platform last week and Warner had promised to get him to return after the crowd then received his speech well.
Yesterday, though, Ramjitsingh said Kissoon would not be appearing at tomorrow’s final campaign meeting. He said this wasn’t because of the nature of Kissoon’s Tuesday night presentation. In another media release, Warner’s team also apologised for another situation arising out of Tuesday’s meeting. A statement sought correction of an address for a minister’s house alluded to in the copy of Warner’s speech. That was sent to the media earlier on Tuesday ahead of the ILP meeting.
The release noted Warner had given the correct address in delivering his statements to Tuesday’s audience.