Friday, November 16, 2012

Rambachan explains context of PM's Divali Nagar speech

Suruaj Rambachan has written the editor the the Trinidad Express complaining about an article that appeared in the paper on November 14 with the headline PM ATTACKS ROWLEY.

His letter is reproduced below:

I write in response to your Headline dated Wednesday November
14th 2012 entitled, “PM Attacks Rowley” with a sub headline, “Kurta-clad
Opposition Leader hit for presence in Nagar.”
I was there at the Nagar and listened to the speech of the Honourable
Prime Minister and contrary to what you have highlighted, it is my considered
view that at no time did the PM attack Dr Rowley nor criticized his presence at
the Divali Nagar. 

In fact, she complimented the NCIC when she approvingly declared (as quoted in the Express page 3 Nov 15th 2012) “And I praise you today for embracing all without hate, malice or recrimination.” In fact in the Guardian Newspaper, page 3, the reporter writes, “The PM added that she was glad all races came to the Nagar to partake in the Hindu religion.”

The reference to kurta-clad is no attack. It is an unmasking of the hypocrisy of Dr Rowley who in his makeover appears to be willing for pure political ends to do what is necessary to win votes. This is unlike Obama and Bush before him, who opened up the White House to Divali celebrations and has continued to do so. 

I did not hear the people of America criticize Obama and Bush for inviting a Hindu Priest and a Hindu Scholar (from Trinidad) to celebrate first ever Divali at the White House.

The PM long before she became PM was attending Divali Nagar as much as she attended and celebrated with the Baptists and the Muslim community as well. The PM has made no secret of her love for Hinduism and for worship of Mother Lakshmi, but it has never taken away from her deep regard and respect for all traditions. The people of this country have always admired her for her devotion to God and the example she sets by her public worship.

The Honourable Prime Minister made reference to the scathing criticisms made by Dr Rowley of the Prime Minister’s gesture of respect and humility when she touched the feet of the President of India in January of this year. As the PM explained this gesture is a common Hindu tradition where elders are given respect, love and reverence. It is a gesture of humility and sincerity and is taught to Hindu children at a very early age.

The PM as a child grew up in a home where there were Hindu Pundits. That she went to a Presbyterian School, that she was baptized as a Baptist, that she celebrates with all traditions has not taken away from her the values into which she was schooled as a child. 

To have witnessed her making that gesture in India and to her Pundit in Trinidad shows the quality of person she is, one who has not forgotten what it means to live a life founded upon human and spiritual values. In my view, she sets a great example to young and old of the fact that power, status and position has not replaced humility and sincerity. 

Indeed for those of us who had the privilege to listen to her speech on the closing night of Divali Nagar, she emphasized that power and position
must always be used for the benefit of others. It is clear that this philosophy
is grounded in the values laden environment in which she grew up.

I make these points to emphasize how little Dr Rowley knows of Hindu customs, traditions and values. Had he understood these values he may
not have engaged in the unwarranted criticisms which he levelled at her for
bowing at the feet of the President. 

In fact, the entire hall of over 2,000 persons stood and applauded the PM for that gesture. I vividly recall an Indian TV reporter saying that “it took a daughter from a foreign land to remind us of our own values.”

In looking back at the time when Dr Rowley made his comments, I am left to wonder as to why the media did not criticize Dr Rowley for his lack of knowledge of Hindu customs. 

I wonder if the media themselves did not have that knowledge and if they did not, why did they not seek to find out from the Hindu community the meaning of the gesture. It is now left to the imagination as to whether Dr Rowley realized that he was attacking the Hindu population. Dr Rowley may wish to consider an apology for this attack.

Dr Rowley has commented that he does not wish to be drawn into a political firestorm or racial confusion. Unfortunately he created that firestorm when he hastily commented on the gesture of bowing. 

Dr Rowley’s comment that he does not wish to be drawn into any racial confusion is unfortunate because this was never about race. It has always been about making that extra effort to reach out and understand our diversity and to appreciate and give value to another group in a  culturally and religious diverse nation. It was always about respect! 

I see nothing wrong in the PM using the opportunity to clarify and respond to Dr Rowley’s scathing attack on her in January of this year. As a public person Dr Rowley should know that just as he scrutinizes every word and action of his
opponents that he too is subject to the same degree of scrutiny.

To have interpreted the comments of the PM as an attack on Dr Rowley is taking it too far.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai