Activist Wendell Eversley is calling for legislation on hate speech and discriminatory language to be introduced after Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said government minister Camille Robinson-Regis has the name of a “slave master.”
Persad-Bissessar made the remarks at a UNC rally earlier this month in response to Robinson-Regis calling out her full name – Kamla Susheila Persad-Bissessar – during a PNM meeting the week before.
Eversley and his supporters staged a demonstration on Wednesday outside Parliament on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, where he called for laws dealing specifically with divisive language.
Speaking with Newsday afterwards, Eversley said the comments were insensitive and had the potential to incite division and violence.
“We all know what hate speech can do to a country. Hate speech can divide a country, hate speech can bring bloodshed. It can bring different races to go against each other.
“When I’m doing my research, there are 27 countries that have legislation to deal with hate speech it’s time that the government of the day brings legislation to deal with hate speech and worst of all it’s coming from a former prime minister,” he said in reference to Persad-Bissessar.
“I was part and parcel of five parties that formed the People’s Partnership, and three of those parties, their political leaders were Africans. Is it that Kamla Persad-Bissessar is saying that all the people who voted for the Partnership to put her in government, we are still slaves?
“These kinds of messages ought not be sent, especially by people in high office.”
Eversley added that it was too late for Persad-Bissessar to issue an apology for the remarks, and chided her colleagues for not criticising her on the subject.
During the gathering he handed a copy of his letter proposing hate-speech laws to National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.
Speaking with Newsday, Hinds said, “I welcome the expression of the sentiments of the people to the atrocious conduct on the part of the Opposition Leader that transpired recently.
“She believes that everybody in Trinidad and Tobago is sufficiently patient and willing to tolerate some of the horrific and self-seeking behaviour of Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the United National Congress, and I am proud of these conscious citizens who have come out in front of the people’s Parliament and say, if anyone should be going it’s her.”
Eversley said a copy of the letter will be delivered to the Office of the President on Friday.