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Monday 24 September 2018
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Let highest courts rule on gay sex

Rowley tells UK Times Windrush deportation 'callous', also…

Your Majesty: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley greets Queen Elizabeth II at a dinner hosted at Buckingham Palace, on April 19, one of the formal events of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Photo courtesy Office of the Prime Minister.
Your Majesty: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley greets Queen Elizabeth II at a dinner hosted at Buckingham Palace, on April 19, one of the formal events of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Photo courtesy Office of the Prime Minister.

COREY CONNELLY

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday described as “callous,” recent calls by the British government for West Indian immigrants, including TT nationals of the so-called Windrush generation, to be deported to their home countries.

He also shared his view that it would be up to the highest courts to rule on if gay sex should be a criminal offence, standing by Government’s decision to appeal the April 12 landmark ruling of Justice Devindra Rampersad that declared the buggery law unconstitutional.

These are the issues Rowley addressed in a UK Times interview yesterday, which opened with his opinion on the Windrush generation debacle, which overshadowed the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and caused UK Prime Minister Theresa May to issue an apology to Caricom leaders.

Rowley, one of 53 Commonwealth leaders who attended the meeting, is quoted in the newspaper as saying he was surprised it (calls for West Indians to be deported) was allowed to happen “that it ever got so far.

“Because 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,” he said.

“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.”

Rowley added: “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?”

Rowley said 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.”

Asked if the position betrayed an underlying racism or was just bureaucratic insensitivity, the PM said: “I’m not sure that it’s not a little bit of all of that, 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.”

Rowley said while he only had happy memories of his time in Leeds, he believes racism is impossible to eradicate.

“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 lamented there were still people who blamed all of their problems on immigrants.

“And that is the argument that drove some of the worst atrocities in the early 20th century.”

Rowley said if racial equality was the issue which brought the Commonwealth closer together, gay rights was the topic that did not.
(See page 17A)

Morality and the law

Quizzed on the issue of gay rights, now a talking point in TT following the High Court decision to decriminalise aspects of the law regarding buggery, Rowley said he expects the case to be taken to the Privy Council, which is TT’s final court of appeal.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Pressed on whether he felt TT citizens wanted the law preserved, Rowley would only say: “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.”

Rowley said there would always be questions surrounding gay rights.

“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.”

Rowley also responded to some lighter issues during the interview.

For example, he told the interviewer no carnival compares to TT Carnival, local rums are as good as any in the world and bowling beats batting anytime in the gentleman’s game.

“I used to be a bowler. I am very impressed with the great bowlers,” Rowley said.

And, does he favour Trinidad or Tobago?

“This will get me in trouble. I’m a Tobagonian and Tobagonians are always Tobagonians.”

Asked if he preferred late Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley over his band, the Wailers, the PM quickly responded: “Marley all the way.”

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