Did Kamla call Rowley ‘black’ or ‘blank’? Racism enters T&T campaign

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he’s not surprised at the statement made by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar at a political meeting on Thursday night, where she appeared to have referred to him as the “black man on the other side”.

Addressing supporters of the main Opposition United National Congress (UNC) as it campaigned for the August 10 General Election, Persad Bissessar is reportedly heard telling supporters, “I know some people are a bit concerned and in fact the black man on the other side talked about kindergarten. What a great disserve and disrespect to young people of this country”.

In a message posted on his Facebook page, Prime Minister Rowley wrote “Finally!!! Caught in her frequent disgusting race baiting she is reduced to repeating inane rubbish to try and lie her way out.

“Anyone surprised? She didn’t call me an Oreo. What she said was ‘Ohio’! or ‘Oh Hello’,” he added, making reference to a public statement made by Persad Bissessar in September 2018 when she described him as an “Oreo” owned by the “one per cent” of the population, a term used to describe the Syrian/Lebanese community here.

In a statement, Persad Bissessar insisted that she used the word “blank” to describe Rowley and not “black”.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar addresses a news conference regarding what she called an assassination plot against her, in Port of Spain November 24, 2011. Persad-Bissessar said Thursday the country’s law enforcement officials foiled a plot involving army soldiers and police officers to assassinate her and other government officials. REUTERS/Andrea De Silva (TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW)

“Keith Rowley is again trying to divide the population by purposefully using the word ‘black’ instead of ‘blank’ with the hopes of stirring a racial argument to distract the population from his failed tenure,” she said, adding that the term blank was in reference to Rowley’s “complete lack of ideas, vision or plan”.

She said she was urging people to “look at and read the entire contents” of her speech where the word “blank” is used a theme to describe the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) Government over the last five years.

In his post on Facebook, Prime Minister Rowley included one video with the “black man”/”blank man” comment and a second with her using the phrases that included “blank”.

Friday is Nomination Day for the general election. Only the PNM is expected to contest all 41 seats, while the UNC will contest 39.