[Trinidad Guardian] – While union leaders, civil-society groups and People’s National Movement (PNM) supporters made their way in a disciplined march through the streets of Port-of-Spain, a few men wearing red T-shirts picketed the Parliament on Wrightson Road with blatantly racist messages. “No More Indian Prime Minister, PNM must rule.”
“Power to the African with Captain Rowley.” “Jail for this Indian Gov’t with Dr Rowley in charge.” The picketers were the only people wearing red among a few hundred People’s Partnership supporters wearing yellow United National Congress T-shirts.
But Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley was quick to dismiss implications that the men were PNM supporters, and attributed the rogue protesters to the People’s Partnership Government.
“We understand that people dressed in red and carrying placards with racist statements have been planted throughout the march,” Rowley said in a release to the media.
“Clearly, those who wish this march had never happened would stop at nothing to discredit it and distract from our real purpose, which is to highlight the gross mismanagement of our nation’s affairs and the wanton and unabated corruption being presided over by the Prime Minister.”
Rowley said the PNM rejected out of hand what he described as an “underhanded” attempt to change the conversation surrounding the march.
“We distance ourselves from the divisive statements, born out of the deceptive and dirty tactics of those who wish to continue to rape our treasury and continue doing wrong against the will of the people.”
The incident, which spread wildly across social media, was the only one to mar a nearly three-hour march through the capital city.
The march, which saw people of all ages, ethnicities and social backgrounds walking, singing and chanting on the city streets, focused on what protesters described as poor governance by the PP coalition Government. While the march had a large presence of union members, politicians such as Independent Liberal Party leader Jack Warner, former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, interim ILP deputy leader Lyndira Oudit and United National Congress member Mikela Panday were present.
The People’s Partnership supporters at the Parliament building wore yellow UNC T-shirts yesterday. Women and men, mostly aged 40 to 50, sang out a chorus of “We love Kamla,” while pro-highway protesters held placards high and cheered for government MPs. They insisted that their show of support had nothing to do with the JTUM march that was being conducted simultaneously through the streets of Port-of-Spain.
One woman, while talking to reporters, shouted that she was there to support the Government. “We don’t want change. Rowley only talking about bringing change. We don’t want change. We want our Prime Minister.” Shouts of “Kamla! (pronounced Kam-ay-la) Kamla! Kamla!” filled the air.