PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley Wednesday warned against inciting racial hatred in Trinidad and Tobago and accused the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) of using it as a strategy during the just concluded general election.
“I would simply would say that I am not surprised by the outcome at all. The campaign of some people was entirely based on race and it dates back to the advice of Cambridge Analytica where in 2015 the advice that was given to the opposition was to feed into the foibles of our national racial fault lines.
“That passed unnoticed until we discovered it and the preparation for the next general election, which was the 2020 election, was based on a racial platform,” Rowley told reporters after he was sworn in for a second consecutive term as Prime Minister.
He said that the whole question of the one corridor movement that was presented by the UNC “was based entirely on race.
“The intention of that platform was to suppress the voter participation in the east west corridor and all the conversations that were taking place…was about trying to get PNM (People’s National Movement) supporters to be angry with the PNM for not looking after their needs based on their allegiance to the PNM based on race”.
He said the intention was that if you could suppress people getting a sufficient number to ‘either go with you or equally effectively not participate in the election that would have resulted in a UNC victory. That did not happen and towards the end of the campaign when those very foul advertisements came out it was a last ditch effort to try to get home to people that they have a problem here based on their racal circumstance”.
Last week, the head of the Roman Catholic Church here warned that “code words’ used during the Rwanda genocide were being used in Trinidad and Tobago and urged the country to step back from this “very destructive” path.
“Code words that were used in Rwanda that created genocide are starting to be used in this nation. This is a serious moment, a moment where we have to stop, where we have to pray and where we have to call out people who are being racist,” Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon said in a message to the nation at the end of a Mass last Thursday.
There has been a racial outburst on social media following the defeat of the UNC in the general elections with the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) indicating that the PNM had won 22 of the 41 seats.
Many supporters of the Indian-dominated UNC party have taken to social media to vent their positions regarding the victory of the Afro-dominated PNM, and in one instance, Ramsaran’s Dairy Products (RDP) said it had dismissed a relative, whose racial outburst on social media had resulted in a boycott of its products by leading supermarkets and the general public.
In his message, the Archbishop said while all those engaged in the racial slurs have to be called out with the population urging them “to cease and desist” it must be “from a place of love and mercy because one cannot fight “fire with fire”..
In her statement conceding defeat more than a week after the polls were held, UNC leader Kamla Persad Bissessar said that she was calling on all political parties and interests to “resolve immediately that we will not let our beloved Nation’s longstanding tradition of harmony, tolerance, and unity be jeopardised by expressions of hate, divisiveness, and fear-mongering.
“We must respect each other’s political choices without invoking and inciting race to divide our people.
I call on all citizens of good conscience to reject hate. I call on all our leaders across national and local government, public and private organizations, places of worship and NGO’s to raise our voices in national unity and confidently affirm , here every creed and race find an equal place,” she said.
Rowley told reporters the use of race had “backfired spectacularly and I trust that all those who put that campaign together would see their futility and danger of doing that.
“I want to say those who call on the rest of us as though we were responsible for that, I take no responsibility, my government, my party take no responsibility for that except to point it out and to respond to it , object to it .
‘It was deliberate campaign strategy which has backfired and I trust those who conceptualised it, those who put it forward would have seen the danger that kind of behaviour in a nation like Trinidad and Tobago.
“I expect that the population would identify it as a pitfall to be steered away from and I trust that all those wherever you are, who participated in it and those who reacted to it in ways that are unpleasant and unfortunate that we let that be behind us now and go forward within the tents of our national anthem where every creed and race finds and equal place,” he told reporters.