Hundreds of UNC supporters, many of them women wearing saris, staged a noisy protest outside the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in St Clair over a skit staged at the PNM’s Sports and Family Day in Chaguanas last Sunday.
United National Congress (UNC) political leader Persad-Bissessar was part of the protest and insisted the skit, staged by the PNM Tabaquite constituency group, was disrespectful to the Indian community and Hindu women because the sari is their traditional wear.
She reiterated that the skit also encouraged violence against women and stereotyped black males in TT as being apelike. Saying she expected no apology from the Prime Minister, and his political days were numbered, Persad-Bissessar said, “You can unwrap the sari but it will never end.” She said this was not a racist issue, although some people are claiming it is.
There was a heavy police presence at the OPM and a drone was used to monitor the protest.
On the assault on acting Attorney General Fitzgerald Hinds by some people in Beetham on Tuesday, Persad-Bissessar said, “I want to condemn outright any attempt that assault against anyone.”
She said she was “fine” with Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha general secretary Sat Maharaj seeing nothing wrong with the skit.
In May, Maharaj condemned Persad-Bissessar for supporting a Muslim OJT teacher who was told she could not wear her hijab if she wanted to teach at the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College. He later said he does not disrespect Persad-Bissessar. She told reporters,”He is always entitled to his opinion. I do not lead a religious flock. I am not a priest. I do not pretend to be a pundit or an imam.”
In a statement, the PNM Tabaquite constituency said the skit “was not insulting nor was it meant to be.” Chairman Curtis Shade thanked Maharaj for his “objective assessment of our presentation.”
Shade said, “At no time in our skit, our dance was presented as a victim of violence, rape or any form of discrimination.”
He said the presentation was a transformation “away from the yellow of the UNC to the joyful red of the PNM as she was dancing during the presentation.”
Saying the skit reflected a political shift in Tabaquite towards the PNM, Shade said, “For anyone to have seen racism in our skit is regrettable and a total misrepresentation of our presentation.”
Persad-Bissessar said the explanation was “too little, too late.”
She opined the skit and the assault on Hinds were the reasons why no news conference was held after the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj called for an unconditional apology for the skit.
Persad-Bissessar said she expected no apology from Rowley.
On Tuesday, the PM said claims about the skit reflecting racial or religious discrimination were baseless and that: “We will disregard such foolishness and we will not take any responsibility for persons who are trying to create discord.”