Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said in a media release Wednesday he did not blank the Chinese president during last week’s state visit.
“On return to the office, staff discovered that a faxed invitation letter came through to the Office of the Opposition Leader with a time stamp of 4:20 PM on Wednesday.
“Needless to say the timing of the faxed letter did not permit Dr Rowley to see the invitation, far less to R.S.V.P. Under these circumstances, we find it reprehensible that Minister of Finance went to the Senate and waved a letter while reporting that Dr Rowley was invited and did not attend the functions.”
The issue is that Rowley could have responded and attended the state banquet in honour of President Xi if he wanted to because he knew or should have known about the invitation at least the day before. He made a choice.
His parliamentary colleague, Senator Faris Al-Rawi, held a news conference at the office of the opposition leader on Thursday, the day before the arrival of the president.
This is what the Guardian newspaper quoted Al Rawi as saying: “He (Rowley) was not invited to any of the events concerning the president of China. He received an invitation by fax from the President’s office yesterday (Wednesday), but he had already left for Tobago so he went on his business.”
This was from a Guardian report on June 1, 2013.
Al-Rawi contradicted himself by first saying his leader was not invited and then admitting that an invitation arrived late. So it is clear that Rowley was invited and could have attended in the same way that other top members of his party did.
Those who attended included MPs Donna Cox and Paula Gopee-Scoon, Mayor of Port of Spain Louis Lee Sing and Tobago Chief Secretary Orville London, who came to Port of Spain from Tobago for the event.
However, Rowley chose to remain in Tobago and play golf when the head of the Tobago PNM found time to get to Port of Spain. Tobago is 20 minutes away by plane.
The conclusion to be drawn form this is that Rowley never had any intention to attend. Al Rawi is in constant contact with his leader and if he was telling the media about the invitation on Thursday then it is logical to conclude that he would have told Rowley about it too.
The spin the party is putting on it doesn’t exonerate Rowley’s lack of nationalism and political maturity. I am guessing that his intention was to score political points.
It’s a pity that while he was away playing golf other members of his party were demonstrating that there are times when you put aside parochial politics and put the country first.
That’s what leaders do. But leadership is not one of Dr Rowley’s strengths so no one should be surprised that instead of standing up with T&T he chose to stay in Tobago and play golf. I am sure he is pleased with himself and the decision he made.
For the records his absence did not hurt the government. President Xi was quite pleased and commended Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for her leadership.
This what President Xi said last week: “Under the leadership of the national government and Madame Prime Minister, Trinidad and Tobago has vigorously responded to the international financial crisis, ensured political stability and achieved quick economic recovery. At the same time, it has taken an active part in international and regional affairs and enjoyed a notable rise in international standing and influence.”
Rowley can play golf; Trinidad and Tobago is in good hands and doing just fine.