Rowley: Comments on vigils being misrepresented

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. -

THE Prime Minister said on Wednesday his recent remarks in Parliament chiding the UNC for allegedly promoting vigils were being misrepresented as an attack on the anti-crime cause, when in fact he had simply said gatherings were not a good idea, yet the UNC was organising them.

Dr Rowley sent a statement via WhatsApp to Newsday to reply to allegations by the UNC and the Candle Light Movement (CLM) on Tuesday criticising comments he made on Monday in the House of Representatives.

On Monday the House debated a government motion to approve the state of emergency (SoE) as an anti-covid19 measure. Rowley had accused the Opposition of organising vigils "to exploit the death of Andrea Bharatt", a 23-year-old court clerk kidnapped and murdered in February.

He had alleged, "The Opposition paid for/organised, night after night, thousands of people to do exactly what the virus wanted which was to bring people together during a pandemic. They organised transport to bring people."

On Tuesday Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar in a statement had countered, "Keith Rowley casting blame on the citizens who attended the Andrea Bharatt vigils, for the current covid19 crisis, is an act of wickedness. What manner of evil mind will pray on Sunday and then on Monday blame vigils for the brutal murders of innocent citizens to distract from the fact that his Government has failed and has no plan to deal with this pandemic?"

The CLM, in a statement on Tuesday, flatly denied getting any funding from the UNC.

Newsday asked Rowley if he had used the name of murder victim Bharatt, 23, to score political points in the House on Monday.

"My response in Parliament about the direct involvement of the UNC is a statement of fact about documented UNC political activity and in no way is any commentary on the trauma which spawned the political activity," Rowley replied, in reference to the national outpouring of grief over the deaths of Bharatt and Ashanti Riley, 18. He complained of "self-serving interpretations."

"I have every confidence that the average unbiased citizen will be able to understand this as they look at the scientific data and reports and will not be swayed by self-serving interpretations that appear to want to fly into the face of the scientific data to conclude that these large and frequent public events could not have contributed in any way to our current circumstances.

"As I said in the beginning I say now that I will be influenced by the science of this challenge and incidentally I reserve my right to have an opinion and will not, as a trained scientist, abandon the scientific findings to be politically correct."

Newsday asked about UNC claims that he had promoted Easter liming in Tobago and epidemiologist Dr Avery Hinds had said soon after came a covid spike, which the UNC said was not due to February vigils.

Rowley insisted the UNC had organised marches and vigils.

"They promoted, advertised, encouraged and transported people to venues in defiance of the Public Health Regulations, an undisputed fact.

"These events ran from early February to the end of March, getting larger all the time and involved many thousands of persons.

"The scientific data show increases beginning March 11 and continuing at an accelerated rate to the present."

He said it was a known scientific fact that gatherings and movements of people facilitate the spread of infections such as covid19.

"The virus does not grant excuses or free passes for gatherings done even for a worthy cause."

The PM said Trinidad and Tobago had experienced a similar pattern in response to gatherings and movement during the election of August into September 2020.

"The scientific data show a DIRECT correlation between the emergence of the vigils and the spikes and community spread," Rowley said. "The heat maps confirm this."


"Rowley: Comments on vigils being misrepresented"

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