THERE is no racism at the San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC), councillors are insisting.
Mayor Junia Regrello and members of the council, including not only the 12 People’s National Movement (PNM) representatives but also the lone representative from the United National Congress (UNC), Shane Samlal, stood in solidarity at City Hall, San Fernando yesterday, to deny the allegation made against one member of the team.
A Facebook post circulating for the past few days, which has drawn widespread comments, has accused the PNM councillors and the mayor of hurling racist comments at PNM deputy mayor Vidya Mungal-Bissessar, who is of East Indian descent. The post accuses the other members of excluding her from making decisions and making her cry during statutory and committee meetings, and using racial slurs against her for dressing in ethnic wear.
Mungal-Bissessar, councillor for Les Effort East/Cipero, was not at the news conference the corporation held yesterday.
She will not be contesting the local government elections, telling Newsday on Saturday that she wanted to focus on her business and her PhD studies, although she was open to serving the party if her political leader desired her services. Mon Repos/Navet councillor Patricia Victor Wilson has also decided to bow out of the race after only one term.
Regrello said the damaging post was the work of a mischievous person who wanted to divide the united SFCC and to hurt its campaign as members go out to seek votes.
He said he did not want to blame the UNC for the post, as the UNC representative was a dedicated member of the team, and said it could have been the work of an over-zealous activist.
“We have a very mixed, diverse team. We are not all of the same political persuasion, but we are very balanced in our thoughts and our decision-making process,” he said at the news conference yesterday morning.
“There is no crying, no sabotage, no effort to hurt any member based on racism. We are Team San Fernando, and everything we do is for the benefit of the people of San Fernando – not for PNM people or UNC people or people from other parties.”
Marabella West councillor La Verne Smith referred to the ethnic composition of the councillors, saying she was not sure what race Naigum Joseph, who is mixed with Chinese and other races, represented; the race of Phillip Montano, considered “a local white,” Anderson Williams, who looks Indian, and the mayor who has Italian, African and other bloodlines
“Every Divali, Indian Arrival Day, Emancipation, the deputy mayor and I especially wear our ethnic outfits. If there is any race in this council, it is about the human race.”
Montano said he always felt welcomed by his colleagues and they shared the common aim of seeing the city progress.
“But this is the silly season. We expect more of that,” he commented.
Williams said, “Teamwork is dream work. In this SFCC we are about unity, working for the betterment for the people of San Fernando.
"I urge whoever is pushing this not to allow the devil to tempt you to bring something as disgusting as race in this council. We stand together.”