Ministers' support of sari skit 'frightening', says Kamla
Photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar stands outside the office of the Prime Minister with former HDC Manager Jearlean John and supporters, calling for an apology over a recent display which showed a woman being made to remove her yellow robe to reveal a red-PNM t-shirt.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she found National Security Minister Stuart Young’s view of a recent PNM skit, involving a woman made to remove her yellow robe, ‘frightening’.
Dressed in a yellow sari among supporters and fellow demonstrators outside Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's office on Thursday, Persad-Bissessar said the skit, which took place at a PNM family day last Sunday and showed a woman wearing a yellow robe being made to remove her robe by 'PNM guerillas' was more than just a skit and portrayed violence against women.
“That is a frightening thing, when your new minister of National Security, his first major statement is to condone, to accept that the abuse of a woman is fun…that can never be fun. I wonder if what happened to MP Hinds could also be considered fun and foolishness as well?”
“I want to condemn outright any attempt at assault or what may be construed as assault against anyone, not just government officials,” she said.
“Why a sari? Why couldn’t it have been a yellow t-shirt? Why did it have to be yellow?”
Persad-Bissessar added that the skit perpetuated stereotypes against black men.
“It (describes) abuse of black males in Trinidad and Tobago. We have this betrayal by the PNM, who are portraying that stereotype.”
She added that her position was not religious in nature.
“I’m not a leader of a religious flock, I speak for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I see it as a blatant portrayal of further violence against and assault against women. That was a clear portrayal of violence and assault against women. What are you telling people, that it’s ok to assault women?”
“I think women will continue to stand up, women will not be kept down, they will unwrap the sari but it will never end,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who was not present at the demonstration, nor was he in office at the time, should heed the calls of citizens.
“It is not just a skit, it is not fun, and it not foolishness. This is a demonstration to show that we will not sit down, we will not stay away. If he doesn’t wake up, soon enough, his political days are numbered,” she said.
She also responded to comments made by secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Satnaryan Maharaj, who said he was not insulted by the skit, saying that he was entitled to his opinion.
“It is not simply about the sari, it is about the portrayal of abuse and assault on a woman, regardless of sari-wearing, regardless of hijab-wearing, it is not about clothing, it’s about what it stood for,” she said.
Pundit Satyanand Maharaj said it was a historic moment as women travelled form the countryside into Port of Spain in order to submit a letter calling for Dr Rowley's apology.
He added that Dr Rowley's absence was an 'act of cowardice', as he saw no reason why he should not have attended. He added that even if the PNM was not aware of the nature of a sari and what it connotated then that was 'equally sad'.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said earlier this week that the PNM welcomes bears no religious or racial hatred and said the skit was only 'a bit of fun', while Dr Rowley referred to the issue as 'foolishness'.
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