Commentary by Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
Kamla Persad Bissessar was given rock star treatment when she visited Queens, in New York. Hundreds waited on a fair Sunday summer’s afternoon for Kamla to make her appearance at Smokey Oval Park. They were not disappointed as she arrived to the sound of tassa drumming and children lining up to present her with roses.
Kamla Persad Bissessar is the Opposition Leader of Trinidad and Tobago and her New York visit was to bring the folks up to date with developments in her country. It was also to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Trinidad’s independence from Britain.
The function was arranged by Trinidadians and Tobagonians USA, and its chairman is the popular musician Anoop Dhanpat. Queens has a sizeable Trinidadian community. Its members are to be found in real estate, commerce, the food business, and other sectors of the local economy.
The program began with prayers. Imam Nazar Mustafa asked for Trinidad and Tobago to be blessed with good leaders that will make the right decisions and for them ‘to find meaning in failures.’ Reverend Seopaul Singh called for blessings for the people of Trinidad and Tobago and for peace to reign in the country.
The anthems of the United States and Trinidad were sung by local star Victoria Labban. The welcoming remarks were given by Shandai Brown, a businesswoman, and cultural promoter. Shandai said that all New Yorkers want peace and security in Trinidad and she hoped that Kamla would work for it in the days ahead.
Anoop Dhanpat said that Kamla is one of the greatest women produced in the Caribbean. According to Dhanpat, Kamla has ‘been tested. She has been around all the major politicians and she has stood firm and proceeded to bring victory to the people of Trinidad. She brought great changes to the infrastructure in Trinidad.’
The cultural performances included the innovative David Alli Dance Company, the nightingale Seeta Panday, veterans Lallchand Rafi Singh and Count Robin. Devi Misir and the Gyan Sagar Dance Company from New Jersey presented a dramatic play on the Sri Ramcharitamanas in their Ram Leela production.
Kamla presented a special award to Anoop Dhanpat for his services to culture in New York. In presenting the award Kamla thanked him for his services. The annual Mastana Bahar competition is organized by Dhanpat, and his committee, and it usually attracts a cross-section of the New York community.
Dr. Ashford Maharaj, a scholar and resident of Richmond Hill in Queens, introduced Kamla. He said that Kamla is a south born and bred and the first female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and the sixth Prime Minister of the country. She is the Member of Parliament of Siparia and the current Opposition Leader of Trinidad.
Kamla said that she was glad to be in New York. She thanked the locals for their support during which there were chants of ‘We love you.’ Kamla pointed out that in 2010 many people worked hard to make victory possible. She said that in the two years since she has left office things have changed.
Kamla stated that in twenty-four months there were twenty-four scandals in the country. “It is wurser and wurser,” she said to the amusement of her audience. Trinidad has recently celebrated 55 years of its independence from Britain. She said that Trinidadians were fortunate in that they were able to keep the culture of their grandparents.
According to Kamla, “I see the dancing and hear the music and I want you to know that you come from a great heritage. Our population comes from the greatest civilization from around the world. We live side by side in peace and harmony. Our people have come out of Africa, out of India and out of China as well, and Europe. We have a great history of different civilizations. As we celebrate 55 years of Independence we must remember that and work to keep the unity in our diversity.”
She asked Trinidadians to keep hope because together they will aspire and achieve. She saluted Trinidadians for building the United States. Kamla made an important point by saying that, “there is no Mother India, no Mother Africa, no Mother China, and there is no Mother Europe. But there is grandmother India, grandmother Africa, grandmother China and grandmother Europe. There is only one mother for me and that is Trinidad and Tobago.”
Kamla then addressed the young people that were born in the United States. She said that their “navel string would be buried in the US but they must not forget the land of their parents.” She quoted pages from the ‘West Indian Reader’ that has a poem which states that one should end their days in Trinidad and Tobago.
Kamla promised to fight for the people of Trinidad and Tobago and she asked all to hold hands to help rebuild the country. There was a Guyanese contingent that was present as well.
Amit Parasnath wished Kamla well and wanted to see her in power again. Latchman Budhai from the 102nd Precinct Community Council was also a supporter.
The 102nd Precinct, that is headed by Guyanese Commander Urprasad, was on hand to provide security. It was an afternoon that was well spent.