PORT OF SPAIN –– Indifference overcame anguish in the Diego Martin West Constituency of Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday, as people reacted to his suspension from the Parliament on Wednesday.
When the Express checked into Carenage, Glencoe and Diego Martin, emotions over the suspension were mixed but the majority of constituents interviewed said they “didn’t care”.
A handful were downright gleeful, saying Rowley had shown no compassion for his constituency whether in or out of government and at least two people drew their United National Congress (UNC) party cards to show their support for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
At Rowley’s constituency office in Glencoe, it was business as usual for the staff, who declined to comment on the grounds that it would not be appropriate.
But one man present in the office at the time of the Express visit was vocal in his dismay and vowed to lead a parade in Rowley’s defence.
James Thomas, the 62-year-old chairman of Party Group 1 of the constituency, said it was with a heavy heart that he witnessed his MP being banned from Parliament.
He said the party groups in the wider constituency viewed this as “an abuse of the Parliament” and they felt that the same treatment should have been “meted out” to Tobago East MP Vernella Alleyne-Toppin when she insinuated in the House last month that Rowley was a product of rape and that he had knowledge, later in his life, of the rape of a young girl in his home of Tobago.
“What has happened is that the Prime Minister Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar cannot deal with the truth, and Dr Rowley is a man of honesty, integrity; and he tells you the truth,” Thomas said, adding that someone should be brave enough to tell Persad-Bissessar the truth about her actions.
Thomas said government had shown itself to be “cowardly” in acting as its own court instead of taking Rowley to the Privileges Committee where, Thomas, said, Persad-Bissessar knew she would find no allies.
Thomas’ party group is also set to join the Save Our Chaguaramas Committee tomorrow in a march from Westmall to Chagville, where he said the opportunity would be taken to show support for Rowley.
On Wednesday, Rowley issued a call to the People’s National Movement (PNM), which he leads, to join the march and send a message to government that its development plans for the peninsula had been rejected.
While tomorrow’s march was an opportunity that presented itself immediately after the suspension, Thomas said there would be other shows of solidarity in the weeks to come.
“We also object to House Speaker Wade Mark, who has allowed this injustice to go on,” Thomas said.
A short distance away in upper La Horquette, more support was found in Bremmon Faria, who said he believed Rowley was “too blessed and honest” to be allowed to remain in office.
Yet not far away in Carenage, little support could be found for Rowley.
“I will not cry any crocodile tears for him; he does not care about the people on the ground,” said Annalisa Croix.
“Where is he when the youth and old people in this community are crying out for help? We have many seniors who are suffering, single mothers, young men looking for work. He likes to say that he is busy looking after the people’s business in Parliament, but I have never seen results from that.”
On the Carenage Main Road, Seon Doyle took it a step further, whipping out his UNC party card and declaring his love for Persad-Bissessar.
“You see this lady? I will always support her,” Doyle said, flashing the card and drawing cheers.
“As far as I am concerned, they could leave he right there.”
Doyle’s friends agreed, saying they had last seen Rowley during the 2010 general elections.
“It’s not to be nasty towards him, but the fact is that if he did something wrong, then the House has to act,” said a female Carenage resident who did not want to be identified.
At least six people in Glencoe and La Horquette who spoke to the Express afterwards said they simply “don’t care”.
“Darling, out here is a hustle; that is life. What I care about them? All them politicians fixing theyself and we struggling out here,” said a 48-year-old housewife who would only give her name as “Kay”.
“Kay’s” friend added: “I do not like the man. I just don’t like him.”
It was a remark that would be repeated at least twice later on by two more constituents.
In Diego Martin, shopkeeper Earnest Constant pointed to the small interior of his minimart and said: “See this? This is my Parliament right here. What I am concerned with is coming in here, opening up, doing my business.
“The last time I saw Dr Rowley was for the last general elections. That was five years ago! So I am not concerning myself with him or that.”
In Port of Spain, the Diego Martin taxi stand also yielded indifference.
“Maybe they didn’t have to suspend him, but I really don’t feel he is doing anything for his constituency,” said one civil servant of Richplain.
She shrugged, as about four people around her murmured.
“Nah, they should not have suspended him,” one man said. “But I agree with the lady; we don’t get anything from him at all, at all.”