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Trinidad PM challenges GOPIO leader

PM Manning urges P Maharaj, local PIO leader, to act as a proponent of integration not division.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2006 10:47 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) Prime Minister Patrick Manning has strongly urged Parsuram Maharaj, president of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), to act as a leader of integration and not of division in the Caribbean nation.

Manning did so in a letter written to Maharaj on March 15, details of which were released to the media from Whitehall, the PM's office here, only now, according to report in The Trinidad Guardian newspaper.

People of Indian origin comprise around 40 per cent of T&T's population of over a million.

Manning was responding to a letter he received from Maharaj on March 13, based on a statement the prime minister made during a sitting of the House of Representatives on February 24.

Manning, according to the report, had then reiterated an explanation he had given in 1997 after he had his heart valve operation in Canada.

He said the very delicate operation was originally scheduled to be done at Mount Hope by a team headed by a doctor who was a well-known United National Congress (UNC) activist, but he decided against that because, if the operation had not gone off well, the doctor might have been blamed. The UNC is headed by Basdeo Pandey, a person of Indian origin.

"As the president of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin, you would serve the nation of T&T better by being more proactive in the integration and cooperation of all the people of T&T regardless of race," Manning was quoted as writing.

"We reject totally the views of those who seize every opportunity to scream race and incite passions for whatever. It only leaves for me to remind you of the motto of our nation 'Together we aspire, Together we achieve,'" Manning wrote.

Noting that Maharaj accused him of being racially divisive, Manning denied any such motive, the newspaper report said.

"In this letter, you attributed to me the statement that 'the physicians of the nation were sympathetic and therefore not to be trusted with your health and safety'. From this you concluded that I was being 'racially divisive'," Manning wrote. He noted that a reading of the Hansard report, which is the official record of all parliamentary sittings, contains no such statement.

"It is you, not I, who sought to import the issue of race into the matter," Manning said.

"In my contribution in the Parliament I was extremely careful to emphasise that I considered the head of the medical unit, who would have done the procedure had I chosen to remain in Trinidad, 'a gentleman of impeccable integrity' and that 'I was not impugning the integrity of the honourable gentleman'.

"It is therefore regrettable that, like so many others, you find it necessary to bolster fallacious arguments by resorting to race. This is jingoism of the worst type," Manning wrote.

First Published: Mar 22, 2006 10:47 IST