The PNM National Women’s League is calling for PDP leader and Tobago East candidate Watson Duke to be rejected as a candidate in the general election as he is currently before the courts on charges of rape and sexual assault. The league said several other candidates being offered by parties opposed to the PNM are either facing criminal charges or have had serious allegations made against them.
They said these candidates include the UNC’s Cumuto Dr Rai Ragbir, who had to be removed from the Community Improvement Services Ltd Co (CISL) due to controversy, while UNC candidates Ravi Ratiram and Arnold Ram were mentioned in "serious scandal" during their tenure at the UWI’s Students Guild.
The League said Duke has indicated to the national community that he has nothing to prove to anyone.
“…flippantly dismissing the concerns of the news anchor by citing in part, that even with the charges the people of his electoral district had elected him and would do so again especially since he is an ‘attractive’ man. We see this as disgusting, disturbing and taking the electorate’s intelligence for granted. Crime against women is not a joke and this is no laughing matter! Our women need to be protected from disrespectful men in society. We cannot allow women to be represented by a man with criminal charges over his head!”
The League cautioned Duke to keep the name of the Prime Minister out of discussions about Duke’s criminal charges, as they said the PNM promotes women in society whilst Duke is making a mockery. It said the PNM is held to a higher standard both within the party as well as throughout the nation, so former Port of Spain South MP Marlene McDonald was not screened while former chairman for Mayaro/Rio Claro Glen Ram was screened by the UNC despite his criminal charges, and former chairman Franklin Khan and former Port of Spain South MP Eric Williams both resigned as PNM ministers when criminal charges were pressed against them.
The League said while it believes anyone charged with a criminal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, it also stands firmly in its belief that one should clear one’s name before one aspires for public office.
“The Women’s League considers it an insult that these parties would see it fit to offer these men, over whom serious allegations as well criminal charges hang, as persons worthy of sitting in the highest office of this country.”
The League found it concerning that none of the country’s more vocal women’s groups, Womantra and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, have come out and condemned Duke’s candidacy.
“Where is the outrage of the Women’s Arm of the UNC and other feminist groups? The League would zealously defend women even whilst other organisations stay silent. Rape is a very serious crime and as such Watson Duke’s criminal charges should not be taken lightly.”
The League said the Parliament must be filled with people of integrity and moral values and not criminals. It said it stands resolute in its continuing condemnation of the candidacy of Duke and those being offered by the UNC.