Saturday 30 May, 2020

Outrage over PM's 'jammetry' comment

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is today facing harsh criticism over his use of the word "jammetry" in describing Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar's behaviour in the Petrotrin "fake oil" scandal.

It was Persad-Bissessar who brought the contents of a Petrotrin internal audit report to the public's attention, in which lease operator A&V Oil and Gas Ltd was said to have received payments for oil it did not produce.

Rowley chided Persad-Bissessar at Thursday's post-Cabinet conference saying:

"You can behave as an effective Opposition Leader, and the country is much better for that, but jammetry is not the way to deal with these things if you are going to get the best out of it. Sometimes that sort of behaviour in itself might be an impediment to getting to the root of the problem." 

The backlash was swift with many on social media condemning the comment, including several politicians.

The United National Congress (UNC) Women's Arm was first to respond, calling the PM's comments "degrading and demeaning".

It demanded an apology.

“We call upon the Prime Minister to issue an immediate apology to all women, especially the Opposition Leader as the reference was made against her person. The Women’s Arm continues to note with dissatisfaction the references used by the Prime Minister with regards to women, and we hope this alarming occurrence will be rectified since it is reckless and demeaning.”

UNC Chairman David Lee said Rowley's jammetry comment was unbecoming of a person holding high office.

He said it shows that the government could not answer the accusations and so had resulted instead to name-calling.

"Why would a leader who says he has Trinidad and Tobago's best interest at heart respond like this? Why would a leader who is supposed to promote respect towards women look to degrade a female leader who has contributed so much to our National Development?" Lee asked.

Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoe Tewarie also weighed in, saying the comment was inappropriate.

"It is ill considered and inappropriate for a male Prime Minister to call the intervention of a female Leader of the Opposition highlighting legitimate issues of corruption at Petrotrin, possible collusion to defraud taxpayers and poor governance in general, "jammetry". It cannot be defended."

Tewarie said Rowley had disrespected the entire citizenry.

"Citizens must demand a higher standard of conduct from politicians and especially from the Prime Minister, who should always be aware that the example a Prime Minister provides, helps to establish standards, influences the tone of conversation in the society, the quality of behaviour by citizens and the demeanor of an entire nation."

ILP Political Leader Rekha Ramjit said she would ignore the PM's use of the word "jammetry" since both he and Persad-Bissessar are guilty of poor conduct and language.

She said focus should instead be placed on the PM's position that there will be a proper investigation into the issue.

"These are serious offences. The longer the powers that be take to act, the greater opportunity for the culprits to abscond from this jurisdiction. It has happened before," Ramjit stated.

Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh described the comments as a "new low".

"Dr. Rowley’s crass and vulgar statements during his comments on the “fake oil” fiasco once more showcases someone “completely out of control,” as previously defined by then-Prime Minister Patrick Manning," he said.

"In addition, Dr. Rowley has contaminated the enquiry into the oil scam, since he has made it clear to all – including the investigators – that the accused is his personal and special friend. It is obvious that the Prime Minister does not intend to facilitate a full and independent investigation into this scam, in the same way that he has sidestepped the “ferry fiasco".”

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