MY HERITAGE: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley seen here with wife Sharon during Emancipation Day celebrations in 2019, has defended his Kunta Kinte Facebook page posting saying history must never be forgotton. FILE PHOTO –
IT IS not only just about a name, it’s about unchangeable history and for the Prime Minister…it’s personal.
Dr Rowley says he is standing by a Kunta Kinte post he made on Facebook on Monday, even as debate continues in TT about a race-heated argument between Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
For him, this is not about a contest for approval or pleasing people.
“It is personal and it is about history that should not be revised or forgotten,” Rowley said on Tuesday during a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he is leading this country’s delegation to the ninth Summit of the Americas.
At a PNM meeting in Arima on May 24, Robinson-Regis used Persad-Bissessar’s full name, Kamla Susheila Persad-Bissessar, several times, during her speech.
At a UNC meeting in New Grant on June 2, Persad-Bissessar fired back, telling Robinson-Regis that at least she got her name from her ancestors while she (Robinson-Regis) had the name of a slave master.
Persad-Bissessar’s slave master comment has been widely condemned by the PNM and its supporters as racist. The UNC has defended the comment, saying it was a bitter truth. The UNC also asked why was there no uproar when Robinson-Regis mocked Persad-Bissessar’s name.
On Monday, Rowley posted a video clip from the 1977 television mini-series “Roots.” The clip shows Kunta Kinte, played by US actor Levar Burton, being flogged until he was forced to give up his African name “Kunta” and accept his slave name, “Toby.”
Attached to the post, Rowley said: “Susheila, that’s how we got the name!”
Rowley left TT for Los Angeles on Monday to attend the summit which ends on Friday. He has been accompanied on the trip by Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young.
When contacted in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Rowley was not surprised by the reactions of some to his post.
“I am not surprised but my post is an expression of a statement of historical fact.”
Rowley said, “If it makes some people uncomfortable or even guilty, then maybe they should have seen it before.” He added, “That might have caused them to be a little more sensitive to the inhumanity of the enslavement and deculturisation experience.”
It might also have assisted, he added, with false narratives and unacceptable comparisons.
Saying that Trinidad and Tobago is still a free country, he asked, “Am I allowed to have a point of view?”
He reiterated, “On a matter like this, I don’t think I should be seeking the approval or convenient support from people who have a problem with my appreciation and cognisance of the experience of my ancestors and my generational trauma and disadvantages which are rooted in the truth of the horrible experience of centuries of enslavement.”