THE EDITOR: Addressing someone by their full name has become a common practice in polite society. As far as I am aware it is done both for the sake of clarity as well as for emphasis. In my own personal experience I have never once seen or heard of it being done as part of an effort to debase or embarrass another person.
Ironically, a good example of this “practice” can be seen on the opposition benches of Parliament, where for the longest time now its members have taken to referring to the Prime Minister by his full name, ie, Keith Christopher Rowley. Personally, I have found that practice to be less odious than the opposition's collective habit of omitting the “Dr” from the Prime Minister's name when they refer to him.
In the years that the opposition has maintained that “low” standard, I have never once observed a member of the ruling party rushing to the defence of the Prime Minister.
Curiously, the UNC was similarly quiet in the days following the PNM political meeting in Arima on May 24.
As one would recall, it was at that time that the Member of Parliament for Arouca/Maloney, Camille Robinson-Regis, “called out” the former prime minister for her party's apparent lack of action on the now notorious Sabga Report of 1997.
In the nine days that immediately followed, both the UNC and the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) had much to say publicly about Robinson-Regis's contribution from that night. It should be noted, however, that none of their responses focused on her repeated use of Kamla Persad-Bissessar's full name, let alone mentioned it in passing. Not one single hue or cry was offered up.
One would be safe to assume that were there an attack of any kind that night on the member for Siparia, it would have been met with an immediate and full-throated rebuttal. Or at the very least a chorus of exaggerated offence – much like the one we have witnessed since she alighted the podium last Thursday night (nine days later), having caused great pain to half the national population.
In fact, it was only after the news broke of Persad-Bissessar's deprecating “slave master’s name” comment from that night that the gears of the UNC machinery ground into action. And one need not be too politically savvy to recognise “spin” when it is so glaringly brought to bear on a situation of such patent and reckless incompetence.
There is no justification or explanation that can ease the blow of what has been said. The descendants of slaves have every right to be celebrated and elevated for their past, not made to feel debased by it. They should instead be taught to take pride in the fact that they are the survivors of one of the most disgraceful, repressive and inhuman chapters of our shared history.
Slavery should never be used as a tool to chasten or debase. What Persad-Bissessar said on June 2 – whether intentional or not – only serves to do just that. It is as inexcusable as it is abhorrent. And it ought to be rejected by all the citizens of this republic – regardless of race, religion or political affiliation.
In addressing this newest scandal – this “middlenamegate” – there is simply no middle ground. You are either on the right or wrong side of this moment in history. I therefore call on the Opposition Leader and her apologists to “get down from there.” And to apologise – without reservation – now.