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Wednesday 21 February 2018
Editorial

Unhealthy language

The recording of the first murder for the year in Tobago is a disturbing reminder that while Tobago and Trinidad have very separate histories we are now both experiencing the same challenges.

However, crime is not the only thing which we have in common. Increasingly, nasty political tactics – featuring appalling personal attacks – are becoming a regular thing at the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

We condemn outright the utterances of the THA’s Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development, Dr Agatha Carrington. Last week, Carrington raised the issue of the personal life of THA Minority Councillor Dr Faith B Yisrael.

“You so bitter that you cannot sleep,” said Carrington.

“If you bitter like that now nobody will make you sweet far more to make you a parent.”

Too often our leaders forget that they set the tone for the rest of the nation to follow. One need only look at the damaging effect of the utterances of US President Donald Trump to see the importance of having public officials who understand the gravity of their positions. When a leader uses appalling or derogatory language, they give licence to others to do the same.

As demonstrated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – who recently confirmed being pregnant in office – a woman’s personal life, her ability to have a family or not and her family aspirations have nothing to do with her ability to perform public service.

Carrington’s raising of the issue of Yisrael’s prospects for motherhood, in the THA chamber of all places, was a backward move. It was utterly tone deaf, coming at a time when the country is preparing to install its first female Head of State in the person of Paula Mae Weekes. The comments were all the more offensive because Carrington’s portfolio requires her to oversee matters of health, wellness and family development.

However, it should be noted that the secretary was swift to issue an apology for her remarks, doing so last Friday.

“Perhaps, in the exuberance of the debate, the words I used may not have been the most appropriate,” Carrington conceded. Her apology, coming as fast as it did, was a rare thing, in both Tobago and Trinidad. It was an instance of a politician making amends for a misstep, as opposed to ignoring the outcry.

It is hoped this incident will be a reminder to all politicians of the responsibility they have to the population at large to set the right example, both in terms of attitudes to gender and in terms of accountability.

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Editorial