Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath. –
POLITICAL analyst Dr Indira Rampersad and political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath, both agree that the name-calling battle between the UNC and PNM has gone on long enough and leaders of both political parties should end it.
Rampersad and Ragoonath were responding to the ongoing squabble between the two parties and their supporters over comments perceived to be racist and highly inflammatory.
Rampersad said politicians use ethnicity as part of their arsenal and questioned why, outside of a general election, was this garnering so much attention
On May 24, Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis called out the Opposition Leader’s full name: Kamla Susheila Persad-Bissessar, several times, during a PNM meeting which elicited loud laughter and derision by supporters in attendance.
Nine days later, on June 2, Persad-Bissessar responded by telling Robinson-Regis she had the name of a slave master.
This comment was condemned by the PNM and its supporters as being racist while the UNC has defended the comment saying it is a bitter truth and questioned why no uproar or outrage when Robinson-Regis mocked Persad-Bissessar’s name.
“We don’t have a contest for social space. I think the different ethnic groups socialise pretty well. David Rudder said we don’t vote like we party. What we have is contest for political space. And in order to gain that space, you have to play the race card. It’s a trump card,” said Ragoonath on Tuesday when contacted for comment.
“So politicians use it all the time. The interesting thing is that it’s being used now and there is no general election.”
Ragoonath said the issue is not racist but racial. He explained the difference is that both comments made reference to race but not in a derogatory manner.
“This is essentially a non-issue. However, it is being kept alive and made into a political issue. And that is the nature of politics in Trinidad and Tobago where basically we take non-issues and make them into real big political issues” Ragoonath said
When contacted for comment, Rampersad said neither of the two comments were racist or racial but, “politically expedient but to some extent, irrational.”
After Persad-Bissessar’s statement, economist Marla Dukharan created an online petition calling for her removal last Friday.
In creating the petition Dukharan said, “Racism has no place in our country, where every creed and race find an equal place. She needs to go. And everyone who shares her racist views need to get a clear message that this behaviour will not be tolerated in Trinidad and Tobago. It ends now.”
The petition, as of 6 pm on Tuesday, had garnered 1,355 signatures.