Moonilal distances himself from PNM senator's 'paal' jibe at UNC senator

Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal and Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial during a joint select committee meeting in Parliament on February 27. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal and Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial during a joint select committee meeting in Parliament on February 27. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

UNC Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is keeping his distance from a furore in which his name was called in the Senate by Government Senator Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal in an exchange with his party colleague, UNC Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial.

“Oh God, I don’t get involved in bacchanal. I am a man concerned with policy and vision and development and so on. I don’t have a clue what she (Sagramsingh-Sooklal) is referring to. I don’t take bait nor basket,” Moonilal said on Friday.

His response came amid criticisms by the UNC Women's Arm of Sagramsingh-Sooklal’s remarks during the Senate debate on the Municipal Corporation (Extension of Terms of Office and Validation) Bill, 2023 on Wednesday.

Sagramsingh-Sooklal in a jibe at Lutchmedial's contribution prior to hers said that “she thought this was 'spread paal with Moonilal' and this was not the Senate."

Lutchmedial was critical in her contribution of the Government in light of the recent Privy Council ruling that its extension of the local government term of office was illegal.

Reports are that after Sagramsingh-Sooklal's comeback with the "spread paal with Moonilal" remark, seen as derogatory by the UNC Women's Arm, Lutchmedial later cursed a government member when she was offered a piece of cake in the tea room.

Lutchmedial in a WhatsApp message on the incident simply said, “I rebuked an offer of cake by other PNM members trying to pacify me for being angry at the statement.”

“Jealously is killing Sagramsingh (-Sooklal) who cannot name one important case that she has been a part of. She resides in the political gutter and will stay there.”

Lutchmedial on her Facebook page hit out at Sagramsingh-Sooklal as a braying donkey who descended to a personal attack, saying she should could not match her legal successes. She also hit out at Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi and the PNM leadership in her post.

Newsday sent a WhatsApp message to Sagramsingh-Sooklal but she did not respond.

The UNC Women’s Arm in its statement reminded Sagramsingh-Sooklal that her Indian ancestors, like those of Lutchmedial, endured immense hardships and made profound sacrifices to embark on the arduous journey to TT in pursuit of a better life.

“The 'paal' or pieces of the sail that provided shelter and place to sleep during their voyage, stands as a testament to the indomitable resilience and unwavering determination of those who paved the way for future generations. To blatantly disrespect and disregard one's ancestral legacy, particularly during the solemn commemoration of Indian Arrival Day, is not only deeply disconcerting but also indicative of a complete lack of empathy and historical understanding.

“It appears Senator Sagramsingh-Sooklal is prepared to denigrate her own heritage to ingratiate herself to the PNM.”

Former UNC leader and prime minister Basdeo Panday felt the "paal" remark could be seen as demeaning.

“They (other ethnicities) used to call Indians coolies, so maybe it could have that kind of innuendo.”

As far as he knows, he said, paal also referred to bags in which sugar and rice were stored and sold. In the absence of furniture the bags were spread on the floor by indentured Indians and their families for people to sit, during singing competitions and gatherings.

“I suppose it could have a sexual connotation in that one could spread paal for things other than music,” he said.

Some say indentured Indians also slept on paals as beds.


"Moonilal distances himself from PNM senator’s ‘paal’ jibe at UNC senator"

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