By Dr Dhanpaul Narine
When you are living history, you don’t realize it. Richard David’s first Town Hall event was an unqualified success. He was able to bring out a galaxy of political stars, including Congressman Gregory Meeks, and a number of elected officials from the City Council. There were twenty-five organizations that co-sponsored the Town Hall. When US Senator Chuck Schumer walked into the Richi Rich Palace it was the icing of what was an afternoon of political education and enrichment.
District Leader, Richard David thanked all for their support. He singled out Jarnail Singh for always supporting the community. This is the 550th Anniversary for Sikhism and Jarnail Singh, a popular Sikh, was happy to serve in the footsteps of Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion. He welcomed all to Richi Rich and he promised to be of help in the future.
Congressman Meeks said that he was delighted to be in Richmond Hill. He said that Richard David has worked everyday and being District Leader ‘is his passion’ It is not usual, he said, for a meeting of that kind to get a US Senator so we were lucky to have Senator Schumer in our midst. Mr. Meeks is the chair of the Queens County Democratic Organization. He said that we live in political and historic times. He turned his attention to the impeachment hearings in Washington.
According to Mr. Meeks, ‘when you talk about impeachment you should realize that it is a political process. It was put in place by the Constitution of the United States. The President says that no collusion took place but he is blocking witnesses from testifying. He is supporting Russia when the country knows that Russia interfered with US elections.’ Mr. Meeks explained at length what impeachment means. The President can be removed from office only if there is a two-thirds vote in the Senate against him.
Mr. Meeks said that he sits on one of the committees that has jurisdiction over impeachment. There is a lot of pressure on the Republicans to go against Trump. But many are afraid to speak publicly since they hold slim leads in their Districts and are seeking re-election. There are a number of bills that are stuck in the Senate so it’s important that the Democrats gain control in order for these bills to become law.
Mr. Meeks pointed out that President Donald Trump has hurt New York. The tax reform bill ‘has devastated us.’ But despite the scenarios in Washington, the business of the government has to go on and he will work to make this happen. Congressman Meeks described the United States as the greatest experiment ever seen because we have people from all over the world living together. We must not allow people to separate us; we must work to take the country in the right direction.
One questioner wanted to know what strategies Mr. Meeks would use to involve more South Asians in Queens politics. Mr. Meeks said that involvement means that everyone must be registered to vote. People should become a part of local political organizations. They help to make a difference at the local level. People should get counted. They should take part in the Census so that services can come to the community.
Domestic violence is prevalent in the Queens area. How would the Congressman address it? He said that young people should be educated to know that violence is not acceptable. People should get help. There is a family justice center in Queens. There should be more discussions in the family and faith-based organizations should play a more active role. One suggestion was for the Mayor’s office to devise a program of information that is specific to the South Asian community.
Another questioner wanted to know the role and definition of a District Leader. Richard David replied that a District Leader works closely with all in the community to find out their problems. Congressman Meeks said that there are seventy-two District leaders in the borough of Queens and part of their job is to help with petitions and to put people on the ballot. The function of a District Leader is part of representative government.
The Democratic Party should be more reflective of the community. We need more women and minorities in the system. How does the Congressman plan to make this happen? Mr. Meeks said that his election is part of a new and forward thinking process. The idea is to make sure that positions are reflective of the ethos of the party and from all nationalities. ‘The answer,’ he said, ‘is not tearing down the organization but fixing it and being a part of it.’ We have come a long way and the time has come to see diversity in the audience.
There was general agreement that the community should take part in the Census and be counted so that much-needed resources could flow in the area. It was also important that the community get out the vote. A question was asked about the status of the DACA applicants. Congressman Meeks has long championed their cause. He said that the matter is with the Supreme Court. He has real concern since the conservative element has a majority in the Court. Mr. Meeks said that he does not know what the decision will be but he is concerned. The only way this could be changed is through elections. There is need for a clean immigration bill.
The meeting ended with Congressman Meeks thanking all. He also thanked Jarnail Singh of Richi Rich Palace for his hospitality and urged the community to stay involved. The Congressman said that Richard David has advocated for the community and has stayed focused and that he has taken note of it. Judge Karen Gopee was singled out for her exceptional work on the bench.
The Congressman concluded by saying that he will be taking a team to Guyana to assess the readiness of the country to hold its general elections. Guyana’s elections are due on March 2, 2020 and the country is still to dissolve its Parliament.