Reginald Dumas

Divided expert views on whether UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s remark on “1990” could have possibly incited violence– but unanimous views against her criticism on Health Ministry public servants.

This, when political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath and retired public service head Reginald Dumas spoke yesterday on Persad-Bissessar’s recent remarks

Last Saturday, Persad-Bissessar warned of the plight of hundreds of thousands.

Saying a virus of poverty was sweeping T&T, she said the Prime Minister must accept help from stakeholders and make changes to his “failed team. We cannot have a 1990 repeat.”

She also referred to “The same failed medical team now turned propaganda team of Terrence Deyalsingh, CMO Dr Roshan Parasram, Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards, Dr AveryHinds and Dr Michelle Trotman. These people have been in charge for over 15 months and led us into this disaster of over 600 deaths.’’

Prime Minister Keith Rowley and his frontliners and party units on Sunday accused her of inciting violence with the 1990 reference. She was defended by UNC frontliners.

Ragoonath said, “Our leaders need to grow up and act more maturely. The tit- for- tat isn’t helping T&T. Every time Mrs Persad-Bissessar makes a statement or the Prime Minister does, one attacks the other without acknowledging whether there’s merit to what’s said.’’

“I’d say for instance, I don’t think she was correct in attacking the health team. They’ve worked religiously. Whether or not they had the kind of resources they needed, we’ve not had the kind of success we’d have liked to have seen in dealing with the COVID situation,”

But in my personal view her remark about 1990 wasn’t inciting– I didn’t think she did anything wrong. The comment must be taken in the context of what she said – if we push people to the brink when they’re not seeing income or anything positive coming their way and they’re left hungry, they’ll react, not necessarily in terms of insurrection but they’d find food and that could dovetail into negative implications for society.”

Dumas said, “From what I understand the Prime Minister was saying, she was making societally inflammatory remarks. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she was inciting another 1990 but if I were in her place, I’d not have made the statement.”

“This is a very difficult time, I don’t know it’s the time to make a statement like that and if I were the Opposition leader I’d be careful about the remarks I make. When you make a statement like that you might give people ideas. She was a NAR member when the 1990 failed coup attempt arose. One would have thought that trauma and people being killed, you’d want to be careful of the language you use as you might be giving some people ideas.”

Dumas added, “I notice she also named public servants, calling them a ‘propaganda team’. As former public service head I take serious objection to public servants being treated this way.”

“It’s nothing short of a scandal a if a senior politician should descend to this level. Public servants don’t make policy, they give advice and decisions are made on the basis of advice – why call them a ‘propaganda’ team ? It’s not right or fair.”

Dumas added, “ To both sides: like many I’m somewhat alarmed by the quality of language being used publicly by our political class. I’d ask people to think before speaking, pointing fingers, attacking and saying all kinds of things the way is being done.’’