By RIA TAITT, www.newsday.co.tt
Housing Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday said it was ludicrous that the people who led the country into an era of "treasury raid" under the last administration, were now leading the attack against crime. He said as far as the Opposition was concerned the only crime in the country was murder. "Thiefing Government money is not a crime as far as they are concerned. So you have the ridiculous state of affairs where those who led the country into an era of treasury raid, all of a sudden leading the country against crime. To impress who? Instead of expressing contrition for what happened under your administration, you leading an attack on crime?" Rowley also accused the Opposition of being "excited" by bad news on the crime front.
He was speaking on the private motion condemning racial discrimation in the House of Representatives. His contribution caused much bacchanal as Opposition members fired verbal bullets forcing Speaker Barry Sinanan to his feet several times to appeal for order. Rowley also slammed the Opposition UNC, accusing it of exploiting racial divisiveness for political gain and of poisoning the minds of the East Indian community against others in the society. "I want to tell Trinidad and Tobago that what is going on today with respect to the stoking of racial hatred, this constant clamour about racial discrimination... poisoning the minds of the East Indian community... would put Trinidad and Tobago on the road to destruction," he said. He said the Opposition Leader, leading a march "under the guise of crime but it is really a political march," talked about 'we are in the majority and we must not tolerate this.'"
"Who is the we? It could not be the UNC, which is in the minority," Rowley said. "It hurting him. 15,000 people!" Panday said gleefully as he turned towards his colleagues. "What he was in effect doing is talking in coded language to the East Indian population following on his allegations of racial discrimination," Rowley charged. The statement provoked an uproar from UNC Mps but Rowley fired back: "You could shout as much as you like. It is my turn to speak and I am going on record as saying that the UNC is engaging in racial baiting." "And I am simply appealing to the East Indian population to disregard the political deathbed arguments of the UNC because they are being misled," he continued, undaunted. Couva MP Kelvin Ramnath shot back: "You are a bigtime racist. You only giving house to one type of people."
Rowley said he was glad Ramnath said that because Ramnath accused him of taking issue with a particular project in Couva (Hanover) because Indians were involved. "He (Ramnath) is saying that if I as Minister find a problem in NHA with a contractor and he happens to be of Indian origin, I must do nothing about it for fear of being accused of racism. But I have taken an oath to operate without fear or favour, malice or ill-will. And if the contract has a problem whether it is Chinese, Arab, Indian or African, my job is to ensure that it is investigated," the Minister stated, to thunderous deskthumping support. Rowley said he was speaking because he was named in Gerald Yetming's motion as advocating and supporting some aspects of racial discrimination simply because he sought to give an explanation about the text of the Social and Economic Framework 2004, (which spoke of recruiting urban Afro-males for COSTAATT).
Rowley drew attention to an article in Time Magazine dealing with a similar problem of underperformance among Afro-Brazilians. The article detailed the steps the Brazilian government was taking to deal with this problem, he said. He also pointed to another article on the Metropolitian Police in the UK which was taking positive discrimination to increase the number of Blacks in the force. Rowley said maybe the Parliament needed to have a proper debate on race relations so that all the issues which were being raised clandestinely, all the allegations and the threats, could be dealt with openly. He lamented that what was happening instead was that there was an element of racial distrust being reflected on every single issue which came before the Parliament.
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