Former People’s National Movement (PNM) deputy political leader and attorney Nafeesa Mohammed yesterday made it clear there was nothing political in her exchanging greetings with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar during the latter’s visit to El Socorro for Eid-ul-Fitr observances on Friday.
“Of course not,” Mohammed told Sunday Newsday, in response to talk she might be considering crossing the floor to the United National Congress, which Persad-Bissessar leads.
“I have not had any involvement in terms of Opposition politics.”
Mohammed said Persad-Bissessar was invited by councillor Safraz Ali and others to attend Eid-ul-Fitr services at the Nur-E-Islam Masjid in San Juan.
“The councillor for the area where the masjid is located, that is in the electoral district of San Juan East. I gather that he would have invited her together with other persons from their organisation. So, she (Persad-Bissessar) was very present in the community.”
Mohammed said her family had long-standing ties to the mosque.
“It is the one where my roots are deeply buried.”
Mohammed recalled she was sitting in her aunt’s home on Farouk Avenue, El Socorro Road when she learnt that the Opposition Leader was in the area and wanted to meet with her.
“As is customary on Eid Day, we have open house in our respective homes and she did come into the yard where my relatives live and there were several persons with her.”
Mohammed said she and Persad-Bissessar briefly exchanged greetings “and I gather she would have visited several other homes in the community.”
Mohammed, who has openly condemned what she considers to be the broad-brushing of local Muslims as extremists, said she and Persad-Bissessar discussed the continued persecution of Muslims.
“We had a conversation with her with concerns that we have in light of what has happened and what we see as the excessive use of force and other things that happen right here in Mohammedsville during the Carnival raids.”
Mohammed said she urged the Opposition Leader to use her office “to be the guardian of our democracy in light of all that has happened.”
She said they also briefly discussed the Government’s proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill, set to be debated on Wednesday.
“She (Persad-Bissessar) indicated she had not even seen the report up until that time.”
Mohammed said she could not understand Government’s haste in bringing the legislation.
She said: “I don’t know what is the haste but I would like to think that in light of how things have been unfolding that whatever legislation is to be debated there will be regard to due process and ensuring that appropriate checks and balances are put in place.
“Anytime you have to give law enforcement additional powers, there must be very close scrutiny of such powers and it is our right as citizens to be able to have the deepest conversation about this.”
Mohammed added: “I hope and pray that all our legislators who will be involved in the debate will see it fit to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are put in place to secure and protect and safeguard the rights of citizens.”
Mohammed said if she were in Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s shoes, she would have come into the El Socorro community a long time ago “to see and empathise with what families have had to endure here.”
She said: “Regrettably, that has not happened until last week when he opted to stand at the launch of a political campaign in Barataria with remarks that have only added in the context of giving salt in a wound rather than effecting some healing for the hurt and pain and anguish that some of the families are experiencing.”
Mohammed again called for meaningful dialogue with the powers-that-be on matters affecting Muslims, especially those who felt terrorised in their communities.
“We have to be careful when people’s rights are being trampled upon and I make no bones about saying that openly and publicly because as an attorney-at-law in this country, we have a duty to protect the rights of citizens and I have been brought up in an environment where you stand up for justice and fairness and equity.”