Rowley’s Statements ‘Could Foster Hatred’ –

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By Sue-Ann Wayow

PRIME Minister Dr Keith Rowley statements made on a political platform that could be interpreted as racially biased and insinuating disunity amongst citizens of varying racial backgrounds were “clearly inappropriate and insensitive.”

This was the findings by the Council for Responsible Political Behaviour.

The Council issued a media release on Thursday reminding all political parties, leaders, candidates and supporters to adhere to the tenets of the Code of Ethical Political Conduct which political parties endorsed.

Copies of the code were sent to the ten political parties contesting the local government election on August 14.

With the campaigning in full swing, three main issues have already been brought to the attention of the Council the first one of “inflammatory language” being made by Dr Rowley at a political platform in St James on June 29.

Political leader of the National Transformation Alliance (NTA) Gary Griffith had written to the Council on July 3, asking them to immediately address the issue.

Dr Rowley was speaking about the issuance of Firearm Users’ License and the United National Congress (UNC) Stand Your Ground proposals when the statements were made. He said, “At the end of the day I am saying it tonight and I am saying it here in St.James, if you all don’t believe me, don’t doubt me. That is a policy that is simply saying a dog whistle, that they are going to give people of a certain race guns to shoot people of another race because they are saying that the crime in this country which we know is across the board is one race attacking another race.”

The Council stated, “The Council, having reviewed the speech made by the Prime Minister is of the view that the language used was clearly inappropriate and insensitive.”

Gary Griffith. Photo Credit: Facebook/Trinidad and Tobago Police Service

The Council said that Dr Rowley’s statement runs counter to clauses in two sections of the Code of Ethical Conduct: the ‘Commitment’ section as well as the section on ‘Prohibited Conduct.’ 

Under ‘Commitment’ it states that parties, coalitions and candidates agree to promote and enforce respect, tolerance, harmony and peace amongst their supporters and the general public during the campaign, the elections and in the post-election period by being positive role models.

And under the ‘Prohibited Conduct’ section, it states that candidates should not use language or act in a way that may provoke violence or intimidate candidates, members of parties, representatives, supporters, or voters or invite, encourage or foster hatred, resentment or any form of violence.

“As Prime Minister, one would have expected that Dr Rowley would be promoting unity in our diversity, and while it may not have been his intention, the utterances can easily be interpreted as underscoring our diversity and more critically could have led some supporters to embrace and foster hatred and divisiveness for members of other ethnic communities in our society,” the Council stated.

It added, “In our quest to guard against such possibilities, Dr Rowley as well as all political leaders must set an example for the citizens to follow and must be always mindful to avoid inflammatory statements.”

The second issue raised was that inducements were being made to facilitate party jockeying. 

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The Council said while it has not investigated that claim as well as the third issue and could not rule on the validity, it reminded all parties and the citizenry of the first clause in the section titled “Prohibited Conduct” of the Code.

It  states that parties, coalitions and candidates agree to not offer any inducement or reward, for example money, groceries or other benefits, to another person to join or not to join a party, attend or not to attend a public meeting, march, demonstration, rally or other public political event, vote or not to vote, or to vote or not to vote in any particular way and refuse a nomination as a candidate or to withdraw as a candidate.

A third issue considered by the Council refers to the issue of smear campaigns, which was brought to the Council’s attention. 

The Council again to remind all of the relevant clauses in the Code with respect to campaigns.

The Code categorically states the following: 

• Not discriminate on the grounds of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, class, religion or belief, or seek to mobilize support by reference to race, sex, gender, religion or class. 

• Not make false or defamatory allegations in print or speech, inclusive of images and effigies in connection with an election in respect of a party, its candidates, representatives or members. 

• Not seek to assassinate the character of or make defamatory comments about any individual, family, professional group or section of the community. 

• Not criticise aspects of the private lives of candidates, their families, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or candidates of other parties.

The Council is urging citizens to bring to its attention any instances that it may detect during the campaign for the election that is being contesting by 373 persons as confirmed by the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC).

Reports of possible violations can be emailed to the Council at

The Council consists of: Chair Dr Bishnu Ragoonath, Vice Chair Ralph Peter, Secretary Leela Ramdeen, Imam Imtiaz Ali, Dr Beverly Beckles, Dr Gabrielle Hosein, Dr Olabisi Kuboni, Dr Eastlyn Mackenzie and Rev Prof Carlyle Pemberton.



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