Thursday 12 December, 2019

PM tells Sunday Times: Windrush issue is callous, offensive

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the threat of deportation against Caribbean people who arrived on the HMT Empire Windrush in 1948 due to recent legislative changes, is callous and offensive.

Dr Rowley comments were published in the Sunday Times during his visit to London for a meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government. 

Dr Rowley said the issue is offensive as Caribbean people are of the mind that British prosperity is "our contribution".

"I think it is offensive to us and I’m sure it’s offensive to British people as well because somebody has made a mess of something. And it created unnecessary pain and humiliation to our people, because we still regard those people as our people, and we still regard British prosperity as our contribution."

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“And that’s why we hold Britain responsible to provide us with leadership, guidance and even sustenance, because we are not just passengers, we are contributors, right? And for those who don’t acknowledge that, we take offence and especially people at the end of their days to have been confronted with this . . . [it] is callous," he said. 

He added that racism may have had a part to play.

"I’m not sure that it’s not a little bit of all of that (racism), and any of it is unpleasant, and in the 21st century I think it’s just a huge unforced error because I don’t know that the vast majority of the British want this.”

"I don’t think that the world has cleansed itself of it and I don’t think it ever will. That is why we have to always be vigilant that it does not resurge or take root or even grow in any significance, because we’ve had too many instances of people being hurt by that kind of approach . . . that’s why you require vigilance and rejection of any attempt to give it a legitimacy," he said. 

Dr Rowley remains mum on personal view of gay rights issues

Dr Rowley also referred to the issue of gay rights which is being hotly debated in Trinidad and Tobago at the moment and stems from a High Court ruling brought by human rights activist Jason Jones, which agreed that laws criminalising sodomy are unconstitutional. The law remains at present until the court matter is settled. The State says it intends to appeal the decision.

Although he acknowledged his Christian upbringing, he refrained from stating his personal position.

“My personal view is that I’ve been brought up in the church and in school and indoctrinated in religion, but I’m also a geologist, and I subscribe to the principle of evolution. So my personal view is not much of great value at this point in time.”

However, he said that he thinks that 'the majority of people' are against the laws.

“The vast majority of people in the country take the position that they want the law preserved because it is illegal to engage in homosexual conduct. But these are opinions on morality and law of criminality. It is the view of many that morality ought not to be legislated in that way because you’re saying it’s immoral."

"I’m saying it is not, and who makes your morals higher than mine outside of a court of law? In the court of law where my conduct is deemed to be criminal in the case of a choice of sexuality, I think the majority of people would not agree that it be criminalised," he said. 

He added that they intend to take the matter to the Privy Council. 

“It will always remain an issue as to whether in fact this is a moral act or an immoral act, or whether it is ordained by God or whether God has condemned it. That will always be there, and it is not for me to tell you how to come to your god."

"But whether consenting adults should be made criminals by their sexual orientation is the issue before the court, and we’ll want the highest level of the courts to adjudicate on that," he said. 

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