PM: I was Kamla’s ‘husband’ in South Africa

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at the People’s National Movement public meeting at the Croisee Promenade, San Juan on January 18. – Photo by Roger Jacob

THE Prime Minister said he was briefly, politically “married” to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar in South Africa in December 2013.

He made this revelation as he addressed a PNM public meeting in San Juan on Thursday night.

Dr Rowley told PNM supporters that as opposition leader in 2013, he accompanied then prime minister Persad-Bissessar to former South African president Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

He recalled they flew to Pretoria on the same plane and then travelled on the same bus to view Mandela’s body.

“It was a very interesting experience for me, because for a couple hours, I was, for official purposes, the husband of the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.”

As PNM supporters made inaudible comments, Rowley said, “I was that.”

He told his audience kings, queens, presidents and other dignitaries had come to South Africa for Mandela’s funeral. The visiting dignitaries were put on buses, according to status.

Rowley said kings were the first people to go to view Mandela’s body.

He added that he was there as opposition leader.

Rowley remembered that Persad-Bissessar told him to accompany her on the prime ministers’ bus or it might be a long time before he could view Mandela’s body.

Persad-Bissessar, he continued, told him, “So when they call prime ministers, you will accompany me on to the prime ministers’ coach.”

Some PNM supporters laughed when Rowley grinned and said, “So I complied, and I escorted the lady on to the coach, and I sat as husband of the prime minister of TT.”

On the way to the funeral, Rowley disclosed, Persad-Bissessar discussed with him judges’ and MPS’ pensions.

Rowley said he agreed to Persad-Bissessar’s proposal to support a bill that government would bring to Parliament to improve these pensions.

“I said yes, when we get back home, bring the bill and the opposition will support the bill.”

He added that when the bill was brought to the Parliament, the government refused to support it and claimed that he, as opposition leader, was being greedy.

Rowley recalled what he told Persad-Bissessar on that occasion.

“You have sacrificed your principles to try and save yourself from political problems.”

Rowley said he also told Persad-Bissessar, “I know I will win the next election, and exactly what was not passed in this Parliament, the PNM will pass it into law.”

PNM supporters cheered as he added that the bill was passed after the PNM returned to office in September 2015.

On the basis of this experience and others, Rowley said Persad-Bissessar has no principles. He was unfazed by anyone who would be offended by this statement.

“You don’t have the experience I have.”