Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 27th 2015 Contents A5
Friday, March 27, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Amid an avalanche of criti-
cism over statements she made
in the Parliament that Opposi-
tion Leader Dr Keith Rowley
was a "product of rape," Min-
ister in the Ministry of the Peo-
ple and Social Development,
Vernella Alleyne-Toppin yester-
day apologised for "parts" of
In the same breath, however,
Alleyne-Toppin defended her
actions, saying issues such as
these must not be swept under
She made the statements dur-
ing her contribution to the
motion of no confidence in Row-
ley on Wednesday.
They caused a social media
firestorm overnight and brought
scathing criticism from some
sectors of the public yesterday.
In a two-page statement in
response to the criticism, Toppin
said: "I unreservedly apologise
to everyone who felt uncomfort-
able or outraged because of parts
of the statement I made in Par-
"At no time was I intended to
cause pain or suffering or to cause
people to reopen old wounds of
trauma they may have at some
But she held firmly to the view
that incidents such as those,
which were happening in "our
own country," must never be
swept under the carpet.
"As difficult as it is, these are
conversations we must be having
as a people if we are to protect
young girls from experiencing
this kind of horrific violation.
"And while I apologise from
the heart to anyone who felt hurt
by my statements, I intend to
stand my ground and will insist
that questions that have been
asked of the Leader of the Oppo-
sition must be answered,"
She said anyone who was
seeking to hold the office of
prime minister must not have
such questions that remain
unanswered as the issue probed
the depth of character and the
emotional intelligence that not
only influenced a person s deci-
sions but also impacted on the
rest of the country.
Alleyne-Toppin also posed sev-
eral questions to Rowley:
"Questions that Dr Rowley
must answer include the pater-
nity of a young man who was
the product of a relationship out
of wedlock. Questions include
whether Dr Rowley is the grand-
father of one, or in fact two young
"Questions include whether
Dr Rowley knows of any school
teacher who was a tenant in
Charlotteville? Was he a tenant?
Was he boarding (getting meals)
by Ms Gray? Was Ms Gray send-
ing her niece to drop meals?
"I will not allow Dr Rowley to
use public outrage to hide from
the duty he has to answer these
questions and put deep and
frightening suspicions to rest
once and for all."
Roman Catholic Archbishop
Father Joseph Harris said yes-
terday he was appalled by
Alleyne-Toppin s comments.
It was only on Tuesday Harris,
who was instrumental in con-
ceptualising the Code of Ethical
Political Conduct, was forced to
chide politicians for their behav-
iour on the campaign trail thus
far, noting that their parties had
signed on to the code and must
abide by it.
"I don t want to be condemn-
ing people but political parties
have signed on to the code. If
they have forgotten they need to
be reminded of it. I am appalled
not only by the statements made
by Ms Alleyne-Toppin but by
many statements made by politi-
cians," Harris said.
Former justice minister
Christlyn Moore also took
Alleyne-Toppin to task, saying
her statements represented a
"bleak day" for T&T.
"It is a bleak day when a
woman rises in the national Par-
liament to shame another woman
and her family but it borders on
psychotic when that woman and
her family are the alleged victims
and product of sexual abuse.
Nothing good can come of this.
"What is worse for me, and it
can hardly get worse, is that the
thoughtless dribbler of this
venom is a Tobagonian woman,
carelessly destroying another
Tobagonian woman, her child
and grandchildren, all in an effort
to destroy a Tobagonian man. I
weep. I hold no brief for this par-
ticular man but I weep," Moore
She, however, said if those
aspiring for leadership positions
were criminally flawed then the
public deserved the truth.
"But truth is a slippery thing,
easily transformed and shaped
by ugly hands. Truth is often by
itself insufficient and needs to
be seasoned with other ingredi-
ents to meet the circumstances.
"In this instance, what was
needed as well was a healthy dose
of tact, ladles of sensitivity,
pounds of dignity and a portion
each of common sense, self
respect and courtesy.
"For my own part, some truths
don t need to be told, as they
serve no wider good, reveal no
crime or sin and are simply vain-
glorious rants of a empty and
seething mind," Moore said.
She said Alleyne-Toppin, who
by her own public admissions
was a victim of various abuses,
both politically and personally,
should know how abhorrent it
was to shame a victim.
Vernella makes 'qualified' apology after
Avalanche of criticism The Network of NGOs for the Advancement
of Women said yesterday it was completely
taken aback by Alleyne-Toppin's comments,
especially since T&T celebrated International
Women's Day less than two weeks ago, where
T&T's female leaders concentrated on the
Beijing+20 Platform for Women's Rights and
the elimination of forms of violence to women.
It added the matter was also clearly in breach
of the Code of Ethical Political Conduct which
the Network of NGOs had helped to formulate
"This country is affected by issues of rape,
incest and domestic violence and we want all
victims, men and women, to come forward. This
is not an issue to be used for political gain, more
so by a minister whose ministry is responsible
for people and social development.
"Ms Alleyne-Toppin was insensitive and not
trauma-informed to trivialise any issue
surrounding rape or sexual assault and we
implore her to take this issue off the political
platform, which reaches into our homes and our
schools," the statement said.
It added that in any progressive nation rape
could not be spoken about flippantly and
children born of rape could not be stereotyped.
In addition, it said, calling on the Opposition
Leader to "man-up" had pushed back the
organisation's initiative to get men and boys to
report such crimes when they were victims.
"Being masculine does not mean you cannot
and would not be a victim. We want to create
an enabling environment for all victims, not to
set-up more barriers for dealing with these
"We understand the current election climate
is going to be full of the usual 'picong' and
inappropriate banter that has marred our
culture over the last few decades but we ask
both sides to work with us and think.
"As a mother, wife and daughter and fellow
women in service, we expected more from
Alleyne-Toppin. We call on all our female
hopefuls to take responsibility for their
individual standards, set them high," the
COP Youth Congress chair Jeremy Edwards
also condemned Alleyne-Toppin's unacceptable
"Whilst the 'dog and cat' colloquial saying
used by Dr Rowley last week was deemed
inappropriate and sexist, the comments made
by Ms Alleyne-Toppin have sunk to a new low,"
Edwards said in a statement
"There is no excuse for what the Minister of
the People attempted to introduce into the
parliamentary debate. Notwithstanding the fact
that the importance of bringing to Parliament
the no-confidence motion over other issues of
national importance is in itself questionable, any
point that the minister would have wanted to
make against Dr Rowley cannot now be
considered serious anymore," he added.
He also criticised the unwarranted public
shaming of Rowley's past and the
circumstances that affected his youth.
"Such callous remarks only act to further
desensitise this issue and its debilitating
effects. Ms Alleyne-Toppin's statements were
an unforgiveable abuse of parliamentary
privilege and a gross disrespect to the office
she holds, particularly since her main role in
government involves people and social
development," Edwards said.
NGO: SET HIGHER STANDARDS
WHAT WAS SAID IN PARLIAMENT
VILE AND ABUSIVE
Alleyne-Toppin related a story of a young girl who was sexually
assaulted many years ago in Tobago.
"One day in Mason Hall, Tobago, Mr Speaker, look at the nexus.
"One day a young girl went to take lunch for her father in a
coalspit. When she got there, her father had gone to change his cow.
It's a true story. She, however, met her father's best friend and co-
worker, alone in the coalspit.
"This young girl was then raped by her father's best friend. The
product today is the aspirant to lofty office."
Alleyne-Toppin continued: "Mr Speaker, can you imagine this
mother carrying this pain and shame for nine months and the impact
it had on the unborn child?"
In a statement yesterday,
Mary King, former
government minister and
executive member of the
Global Organisation of
Corruption (GOPAC), said
Alleyne-Toppin should be
awarded for the most vile
abuse of parliamentary
On the issue of
parliamentary privilege, she
said: "In common with British
constitutional practice, in T&T
the issue of parliamentary
privilege is essentially
uncodified and relies upon a
among the Members of
Parliament to behave with
decorum and in a manner
suitable to the dignity of their
"So much so that any
conduct that offends the
dignity of the House, and
indeed Ms Alleyne-Toppin's did
that, even though no breach of
any specific privilege may
have been committed, is in
contempt of the House."
King also waded into House
Speaker Wade Mark, saying, in
general, he has the power to
render decisions on whether a
member has abused the
House procedures and in this
case he should have censured
Alleyne-Toppin or even
excluded her from the House
until she apologised.
"Ms Alleyne-Toppin, who
has brought the House into
disrepute by her abusive and
uncalled for statements, is in
contempt of the House with
regard to a fellow
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