Council for Responsible Political Behaviour chairman Dr Bishnu Ragoonath says Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke crossed the line and has violated the Code of Conduct governing politicians.
Even after Duke’s public apology on Tuesday, he still faces criticism and has since been accused by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi of being an agent for the United National Congress (UNC).
Speaking on CNC’s Morning Brew, Ragoonath called on politicians to conduct themselves with respect and be responsible, especially as the country heads into two elections.
While the political culture allows a certain amount of picong and bacchanal, he said there are lines that must not be crossed.
“Some of those lines are being crossed and I think that’s where the Council for Responsible Political Behaviour would have to again call on the political parties to be mindful of the code of conduct that some of them would have signed and thereupon ask them that they should ensure that they are adhering to the code in accordance to what they would have signed,” he said.
He explained that the Code specifically states that politicians and political parties should not use language that would invite, encourage or foster hatred or resentment or any form of violence.
“And clearly I think Mr Duke language, it has crossed the line,” said Ragoonath, who added that it has long been accepted that the N and C words should not be used.
He added: “And it is in that context that we say this has crossed the line and Watson Duke has been irresponsible. The population at large is being called upon and will be called upon to make a decision on whether or not such language is acceptable. The population would have to decide whether Duke will face any political consequences as no law is in place regarding that issue. “
While Duke is not a contesting the December 2 Local Government Elections, Ragoonath said Duke might contest the general election.
He said, “The political consequences lie with the people and their right to vote for who they think is responsible and who is acting in manner that they are proud to say this is my representative. That is the political consequence that has to be paid.”
However, he said Trinidadians are known for the “nine-day wonder” that after nine days they completely forget about an issue and move on.
While Duke did not sign the code, Ragoonath said it set standards not only for the politicians and parties who signed to it, but for all politicians and everybody within society.
Ragoonath advised leaders to advise young candidates and the rank and file of their party about the code.
“Political leaders are not only necessarily there to win an election but there to create leadership positions and stature and to say that they are statesmen and stateswomen and can carry this country forward.”
Addressing supporters during a local government campaign meeting in San Fernando on Tuesday night, Attorney General Faris Al- Rawi accused Duke of working with the UNC.
Al-Rawi said, “That’s like having a trade union leader stand up and tell us in the PNM that we (N-word) we must stay home because the PNM ent do nothing for you. That sir is a man to be called an astroturfer because he is astroturfing for the UNC and I make no apology in reminding you that Watson Duke is an astroturfer for the UNC.”
The meaning of astroturfing, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “An organised activity that is intended to create a false impression of a widespread, spontaneously arising, grassroots movement in support of or in opposition to something (such as a political policy) but that is in reality initiated and controlled by a concealed group or organization (such as a corporation).”
Duke has, however, denied Al-Rawi’s claim saying that he is one hundred per kept purebred Progressive Democratic Patriot.
“But, he unsure of where he (Al-Rawi) is going or coming as an MP with the 2020 national election in sight. Therefore, the nauseating ideas emanate from his PNM mind,” said Duke of Al-Rawi.
Reporter: Sascha Wilson