Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday refused to apologise to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for describing him as an “Oreo” and instead defended her statement, insisting there “was not an iota of racism in my statements.”
In a release issued last evening, Persad-Bissessar said whilst she took note of comments by some people that there may have been some insensitivity, she acknowledges that “relevant truths can be spoken with less sensitive words in future.”
During the United National Congress’ Monday Night Forum meeting, Persad-Bissessar claimed that the “one per cent” (referring to the Syrian/Lebanese community) “owns Keith Christopher Rowley.”
“They tried to win Mr Manning, they couldn’t do that…They tried their luck to own me but I sent them packing…They have their ‘Oreo’ now, who is their guy in Keith Christopher Rowley and that is how the one per cent friends and family of Rowley control him,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Persad-Bissessar made the statement as she spoke of the economy currently experiencing its sharpest decline in three decades and accused the Government of “helping their friends and the one per cent.”
The comment has drawn mixed reaction from some quarters of the society, with some condemning it as openly racist and meant to create divisiveness in the society and calling for an apology. It has also drawn criticism from Government and members of her own party. (See editorial of Page A20)
Yesterday, however, Persad-Bissessar said her comments were about Rowley’s “duplicitous nature.”
“His choices seem specifically aimed at benefitting the elite, his friends and financiers, while the rest of the population suffers,” she said.
“He is not a man who cares for the average person, which was again demonstrated by his threats to the working population last week. This is a man who threatened to jail and sue workers for protesting retrenchment.”
She claimed that during the last three years, the Rowley Government had imposed the worst suffering on citizens.
She also blamed the Government for “resorting to race-baiting,” to distract from current pressing issues such as the closure at Petrotrin, increasing joblessness, increasing cost of living, rampant crime and the upcoming budget.
Persad-Bissessar also claimed her use of the “one per cent” was not confined to any one race or ethnic group.
“It is a group of persons of various backgrounds, races and ethnicities whose only concern is the accumulation of wealth at the expense of the wider society,” she said.