NEW MINISTER of Youth Development and National Services Fitzgerald Hinds appears to have doubled down on a controversial social media post, which he published and then deleted hours later on Wednesday.
He wrote that he "drove away highly energized to do this critical work," after a "perhaps 30-year old, healthy-looking, muscular man," asked him for "ah lil $20 to buy something to eat" in a supermarket parking lot.
Hinds also made a number of follow-up posts, justifying his position, before also deleting those on Wednesday.
Neverheless, he discussed the comments yet again on a radio programme on Thursday morning.
The original post was widely criticised and described by many, even from his own supporters as, insensitive, tone-deaf and out-of-touch, given the economic situation affecting the country.
It read: "Not even aware that I was in his focus, on exiting the Massy Foodstore, I entered my vehicle. I settled in and observed a body up to my window. Closer observation revealed a perhaps 30-year old, healthy-looking, muscular man.
"I looked for the piper in him and could not find it. He beckoned me to talk to him. I rolled down my glass window and he delivered! ' Ah just asking for a lil $20 to buy something to eat!' I immediately reflected on a previous occasion when another young man asked me for 'ah lil $100.' I have given financial and other assistance many times in greater quantity, but I refused them both! Ah doh like the idea of young, apparently fit men begging! And ah doh like it more, when they tell me hummuch dey want!
"I reflected deeply on my new portfolio, took a deep breath; and drove away highly energized to do this critical work."
Hinds neglected to say whether he asked the man about his employment status, in light of the covid19 pandemic.
Thousands have lost their jobs or taken salary cuts since the pandemic reached TT because of the initial cloasure of "non-essential" businesses, physical distancing guidelines and other strict policies implemented by the government, like banning of dining in at restaurants and bars.
In a radio programme on Thursday, however, Hinds said his posts were misconstrued, but he does not necessarily regret making them, although he removed them.
"I wouldn't say I shouldn't have posted it. It was real and it happened," he said, commenting that it was the request for a specific amount of money which mostly bothered him.
"But when I look back with hindsight, at the way that matter...exercised a whole country almost for a whole day yesterday (Wednesday), you know, I really do think it's a waste of all of our time...when there are so many other important things to address.
"But it happened. It's the reality.
"My love, my compassion, and most of all, my commitment in my recent appointment, doing something about these kinds and other issues in our society – that was all that was operating in my mind.
"Those who know me or even know (half of) me, vendors all around Port of Spain and Trinidad, young people in my constituency – when it comes to generosity and helpfulness, and love and respect and respectful and politeness – I am Mr All of That.
"I am one of the most generous people in the world."
Hinds' original post remained on his page for several hours, drawing hundreds of comments, including supporters of the People's National Movement, complaining about his apparent lack of empathy, especially given the number of people needed state assistance during the ongoing pandemic.
His opponents also chimed in, with the Congress of the People issuing a statement on Thursday calling for him to resign.
The partysaid, "Your last statement, 'I reflected deeply on my new portfolio, took a deep breath; and drove away highly energized to do this critical work' leaves us with no choice but the to call for a public apology and your immediate resignation from such an important 'portfolio.'"