Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has slammed Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for claiming statements she made on crime were directed at one particular race and that her party may be linked to last week’s bomb threats at schools across the country.
She made the demand yesterday, as she called on Rowley to apologise or face legal action for what she called the false claims he made against her at Sunday’s People’s National Movement Family Day in Toco.
Rowley made the comments when he referenced statements made by Persad-Bissessar on crime and from Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, who last week claimed that urban youth from the East-West Corridor were targeting East Indians in Aranguez.
In a release yesterday, however, Persad-Bissessar denied ever blaming any ethnic group for crime.
“I have never in my life accused one race of committing criminal attacks against another race in our country. Not lately, not now and not ever,” Persad-Bissessar said in a response to Rowley’s claim.
“Should an apology and retraction not be presented, I will be taking legal action against Keith Rowley for uttering those false statements and all media houses and reporters who disseminated said statements.”
In a strong rebuttal, Persad-Bissessar said Rowley showed, “he is a desperate, dishonest man!”
“… Keith Rowley must know that racial tensions can be incited by falsely accusing me of making this divisive statement. It is most irresponsible. It is dangerous and downright nasty politics.
“It is also defamatory of my character and flies in the face of my many years in politics, where I have always celebrated our national unity and our harmonious diversity.”
Persad-Bissessar continued, “They say that who the gods want to destroy, they first make mad. I want Keith Rowley to know that the national community are not fools. They’re watching him, looking at the antics of a desperate man.
“I want Keith Rowley to know that the lie he told about me yesterday will not stand up in a court of law or the court of public opinion. I call upon Keith Rowley to do the right and responsible thing and apologise. He must set the record straight and admit that what was said was false and malicious.”
Persad-Bissessar was also defended by UNC MPs Dave Tancoo and Dinesh Rambally at a media briefing the party called yesterday at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Port-of-Spain.
In her statement, the UNC leader said she was also extremely concerned that some media houses carried “…that blatant lie without first speaking to me or attempting to get my comments. Did these media houses know that statement by Keith Rowley was false but still persisted in disseminating it?”
She noted that her April 27 press release stated, “Crime does not discriminate. The victims and perpetrators of crime span all political affiliations, ethnicities, religions, social standings, and income levels…”
She said this (and the rest of the paragraph) was sent to all media houses,” …And unequivocally contradicts the statement uttered by Keith Rowley. These media houses who pontificate with editorials calling for higher standards in public life, should themselves be more responsible in their reporting.”
She called on media houses who replayed and disseminated Rowley’s false statement to “similarly apologise and correct the grievous harm that has been done to my character and my reputation.”
Persad-Bissessar warned the national community.”… to not let the desperation of a Government stir up political strife and hatred at this critical juncture in our history – we’re seeing the worst in this Government. They try to distract from runaway crime, brazen corruption, laziness and just plain incompetence.”