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CAISO: Padarath’s bullying of PNM MPs unhelpful; mature stance needed

CAISO (Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation) executive chairman Colin Robinson has criticised recent “homophobic” remarks by Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith and Facebook posts from the account of Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

However, CAISO has also condemned the response by their target, UNC MP Barry Padarath, which sought to turn the bullying tables on his PNM counterparts.

Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath. (Courtesy Kamla2015.TT)
Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath.
(Courtesy Kamla2015.TT)

The following is a press release from CAISO:

The media has reported that Sport and Youth Affairs Minister Darryl Smith, when asked Thursday, expressed an apology for his budget debate remarks in the House targeting MP Barry Padarath’s masculinity.

Padarath in turn issued a media release Friday that he had sent letters to Smith and Finance Minister Colm Imbert demanding they apologise to the Parliament and nation, announcing a “non-partisan initiative… to launch an anti-bullying campaign” at a school in his Princes Town district at a fixed time this coming week, and that he had written the Prime Minister indicating that failure or either of his ministers to attend warrants their resignation from Parliament and Cabinet.

Media reports cite allegations in Padarth’s letter to Imbert that the latter made oral comments in the Parliament tearoom similar to those emanating from the Facebook account he told the public was hacked, that “several Parliamentarians can corroborate” this, and that he had engaged Imbert about the oral remarks in the Parliament.

In response to these developments, executive director Colin Robinson made the following remarks on behalf of CAISO:

Photo: CAISO executive director Colin Robinson. (Copyright Loop.TT)
Photo: CAISO executive director Colin Robinson.
(Copyright Loop.TT)

“The diverse members of our national community and all the nation’s children deserve serious policy responses to the issues of homophobia and bullying that prompted a national debate following comments by members of Parliament and their Facebook pages this past week.

“Such a response is provided neither by PNM ministers Colm Imbert and Darryl Smith’s urging that we close the door and move on from offensive statements they made during Parliament sittings and recesses this week, nor by the challenge by the target of those barbs, Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, that if they don’t show up for a hastily convened showdown at an Iere Village school in a few days they should resign.

“Mr Padarath’s letters to his colleagues have turned the bullying tables. Following their public taunts of him in the House chamber and tearoom this past week, he is now holding down the heads of Ministers Smith and Imbert in the schoolyard sand, insisting they say uncle.

“Sadly, it’s precisely this way in which bullying escalates in our schools every day that requires urgent leadership and attention; and counter-bullying can’t be the solution either for those who are bullied in school or for how our politicians respond to this serious problem.

Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath. (Courtesy UNC.tt.org)
Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath.
(Courtesy UNC.tt.org)

“Our schools and the children in them have absolutely no use for politicians turning bullying into another partisan fight. Minister Smith’s apology for his offensive words, though late and in response to the media’s prodding, still holds open an opportunity for what I’ve said is the far more important and mature response—Government action on bullying and homophobia, and not just saying sorry.

“He doesn’t get to decide to simply ‘move on’. But MP Padarth’s ultimata only inflame and politicise the conflict instead of leveraging policy strides forward for the children who will grow up to be Barry Padaraths.

“I don’t know that I would go to the Iere Village meeting, but Minister Smith may be a bigger man than me. What he needs to prove is not that he can eat crow, but that he and his Government can begin to solve bullying. That is the response I look to from him and his Cabinet colleague Education minister Anthony Garcia.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (left).
Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (left).

“To prove they both belong on the Parliamentary benches of the nation, both Minister Smith and Mr Padarath need to take this matter out of the gayelle. Let’s all convene at the Ministry of Education in a working meeting where we build on the civil society ideas already developed, quickly seek more accurate knowledge through an inclusive school climate survey, and enrol school leaders, parents, teachers and their unions to put real initiatives into action so our schools are not only preventing violence—enabling young people to learn—but are raising tolerant and visionary future politicians with skills at relating across the aisle productively.

“As for Mr Padarath’s revelations about Mr Imbert’s alleged tearoom comments that mirror those from his hacked Facebook account, and his unrepentant smugness, Minister Smith’s budget presentation brought to our attention that the Finance Minister is above the mean age of even the older UNC bench, so I don’t hold much illusion over any new capacity on his part to display humanity. I have great confidence in his considerable talents in other regards, and look forward to his commitment to ensure Minister Garcia and Smith’s anti-bullying initiatives are well funded.

Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

“Again, let us agree to move beyond the apologising and eating humble pie, and get to the real work and substance of ending bullying and homophobia in public policy.”

About CAISO Trinidad and Tobago

CAISO Trinidad and Tobago
CAISO is the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation, which includes both GLBT people and allies. Our aims are: to foster a forward-thinking, visionary and humane approach to sexual orientation and gender identity; to secure full inclusion in all aspects of national life, social policy and citizenship regardless to sexuality and gender; to develop capacity, leadership and self-pride in our own communities, and to mobilise an advocacy movement for social justice in partnership with others.

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  1. CAISO Trinidad and Tobago

    Justin Junkere, temporary Independent Senator, opening his maiden contribution, apologises to his son for not being there to do homework with him and continues, “given the late hour, I promise that my address to this honourable chamber will be as short as I am”.

  2. What ever happened to don’t ask don’t tell

  3. He was asked to help Jeronmy with his bullying campaign and he did not.

  4. Barry Paradath isn’t bullying. Let’s not get confused. He’s playing politics certainly. But he’s not saying mean things about Darryl Smith’s weight or Colm Imbert’s height.

    • Lasana Liburd

      Actually, newspaper reports have stated that Barry Paradath poked fun at Colm Imbert’s height too Erline.

      • CAISO Trinidad and Tobago

        I wasn’t in the chamber, but the recording of the joke is him saying they are BOTH the same height. PNM sycophants have made much of that. But I’m not sure why it’s meaningful. Someone said the backstory was he was responding to a taunt about being 10 years old or something similar. The big issues here are the questions of homophobia in state institutions and a culture of bullying that is making places that should be safe for learning and self-actualisation unsafe and violent for a range of young people . But why do you give the idea Barry made fun of Colm’s height credit?

        • Lasana Liburd

          I hope you were not calling me a PNM sycophant, Colin. Not without some evidence at least.
          But I don’t think you were.
          I can show you were I got the idea that Barry made fun of Colm’s height.
          It was in fact from a column written by Rhoda Bharath:
          “Padarath’s presentation was filled with equal measures of sound and fury. He delivered half-baked lessons on Sanskrit, syllables and religious salutations. He repeatedly threw down the gauntlet at the Cabinet, with special attention to Ministers Deyalsingh and Imbert. He joked about Imbert’s height and Deyalsingh’s pronunciation of his name…”
          Like many people, I cannot listen to every contribution myself and sometimes have to rely on those who do so. If I was incorrect, it was certainly not intentionally.

          • CAISO Trinidad and Tobago

            Here what’s audible of the remark:

            Padarath: “Member for Diego Martin Northeast, you and I will both will be sharing 10 years old because we both are the same height.”

            Unknown (not Imbert’s voice): “4 feet 2”

            That sounds like being playful and making fun of himself as well. I’m just puzzled why people keep pointing to it. You say it’s because others have.

            Imbert himself has used this height thing to justify homophobia with me, asking if I say he can’t make gay/drag queen jokes, then can he make fun of short or Irish people. And in both instances it misses the point of what taunts about masculinity and being a buller are and do.

    • CAISO Trinidad and Tobago

      The issues at stake here are bigger than the definition of bullying, but why does it have to involve name-calling? If you give Wikipedia authority, here’s their definition: “Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others.”

      I’m willing to be wrong on what Barry is doing but in our wider engagement with preventing bullying I think we need to understand it as not just name calling and not just about some minority trait. It’s the attempted use of force or threats or shame to dominate others.

      What bullying needs is us all coming together, Barry Padarath, Tim Gopeesingh, Yvonne & Jeromy Rodriguez and ABC, Jeremy Edwards and the Silver Lining Foundation, Darryl Smith, Anthony Garcia, Devanand Sinanan to DO something. Not meet, not talk, not make ultimata. We DO have to do some investigation, though, before we act, so we are doing what is needed and will work. We don’t need slogans or songs, we need youth-friendly security, school leadership, teachers who care, counsellors who don’t judge, parents who are engaged, politicians who are more concerned about young people than office. That’s a lot. But a couple of those can help.

  5. This NEWBIE is travelling with all kinds of overweight luggage, he had better be careful or he would go thru some rough times when he goes thru customs.

  6. well as i always say- they are politicians first then gendered being after

  7. Lol. Barry getting pound from the gay community. Poetic Justice for bullying the bullies.

  8. That stunt really did a disservice to the LGBT community … Nevertheless, he is a human, a politician with credentials and ought to be treated like anyone else in the PNM or UNC. You would think by now citizens would be focused on more pressing issues such as violence and white collar crime.

  9. Andre Bagoo decides to take off his news reporter hat and become a columnist?
    There must be a serious staff shortage at the Newsday.

  10. That is one creepy picture. Wow smh

  11. He is reveling in the attention . Please warn him that if he continues to push for headlines in this cultural gay ell he will star at skinner park

  12. I agree with their position, bullying the PNM Ministers to attend an anti-bullying march is counter productive

  13. He needs to have a seat now…