JACK Warner, leader of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) and candidate in next Monday’s Chaguanas West bye-election, was upstaged on Tuesday at his rally at the New Settlement Recreation Ground, Charlieville, Chaguanas, by a guest speaker whose controversial words left listeners agog.
Guyanese attorney, Jailall Kissoon shocked ILP supporters, TV viewers and those tuned in on radio, by using terms such as “bull****”, “coolie” and “little black pickney”, ironically as a way to tell electors to not vote along racial lines.
He had also defended theft from “white people” and said Warner was “ugly like Hanuman”, referring to a Hindu deity.
The penultimate speaker before Warner himself, viewers had expected much from the distinguished-looking foreigner with the silver-white hair whom one audience member even said bore a physical resemblance to renowned TT legislator, the late Lionel Seukeran.
However what they got was a strange presentation in which Kissoon veered between speaking with the precise and proper pronunciation of a British-trained lawyer, and the earthy and sometimes coarse dialect of the Guyanese grassroots. From high-brow to low-life tones, he alternated throughout his speech.
When Kissoon had spoken at a prior Warner rally last week, he had passed almost unnoticed, but on Tuesday viewers simply did not know what to make of this well-dressed and legally-versed man, who has such an easy familiarity with the crude quip. While Kissoon seemingly sought to “reach out” to listeners, some would say he was wrapped up in his own little world, insensitive to the shock he stirred in listeners and so unaware of his time-slot that he had to be sent a note by the master of ceremonies to tell him he was talking too long and must wrap up.
Near the end of his speech, Kissoon asked the crowd if Warner had ever stolen from East Indians in Chaguanas West. The crowd replied “no!”. Satisfied, Kissoon then asked aloud, “He ever thief from ‘black man’ in this area?” Again, the crowd roared, “no!”
Kissoon then declared, “Well, if he makes his money from white man, what’s wrong with that? They never used to pay them!”
While apparently seeking to rebut criticisms that he had appeared on the political platform of Desmond Hoyte, successor to Guyana “strongman” Forbes Burnham, Kissoon claimed Hoyte had once been endorsed by TT Maha Sabha leader, Sat Maharaj.
Accusing the UNC of wanting constituents in the mostly East Indian constituency to vote along racial lines, against a candidate of African descent in the person of Warner, Kissoon remarked, “They want you to vote ‘race’. That is bull****!” Viewers simply did not know what to make of this remark that had gone too far, with some letting out light giggles of embarrassment and some staying silent.
He referred to the Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita, to defend Warner against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s recent description of him as a lagahoo (werewolf) for his early morning meetings with constituents.
Kissoon quoted Lord Krishna advising his friend, Arjoon, on the battlefield, “Remove indolence and laziness, and destroy sleep!” Hailing Warner’s hard work in the early hours, he said, “Jack Warner has done that.”
Kissoon continued to refer to Hindu deities.
“They called him lagahoo, but he has done that to protect ‘Mother Sita’ in the Government. He ugly like Hanuman, but he’s as wise as Hanuman, and they (UNC) are afraid of him.” Kissoon accused the UNC of wanting to put prejudice in the hearts of voters so as to stop Warner’s noble work.
Kissoon said Persad-Bissessar’s trust for Warner had been shown when she gave him one of the biggest ministries, the Ministry of National Security, and did so without fearing that he would abuse this sensitive ministry, saying, “No one feared that a black man would take over an Indian government.”
Saying voters must not remove a proven performer in the person of Warner, he sought to rouse the crowd by shouting, “No way! No way! No way!”
Kissoon’s remarks prompted an immediate apology by the Warner camp sent to media houses at 4 am yesterday.
In reply, Sat Maharaj, yesterday told Newsday of many public/political figures across the Caribbean whom he knew well, having met them over his years in religion and politics. He said former St Vincent and the Grenadines leader, Sonny Mitchell, was a close personal friend who had visited him in TT. Maharaj said that in Guyana he had known Hoyte and his rival the former president, the late Cheddi Jagan, just as he now knows the present prime minister and president of Guyana. “In the line of work that I do, I meet a lot of people. I even went to Suriname, anywhere that there are Hindus.”
“So what is there (wrong) about knowing somebody?”
Maharaj said the real story coming out of Kissoon’s speech was his “justification” of theft from white people. “We say, as a public figure, that stealing is wrong. Yet here is a man on Jack Warner’s platform justifying stealing from a particular group of people. This man is a guest in this country and has no right to be on a platform making these statements.” Maharaj said he did not know Kissoon, but had heard that since the Tuesday night outburst, the ILP camp had decided not to have Kissoon as a platform speaker.