Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 6th 2015 Contents RESHMA RAGOONATH
The widely-held view is that religion and pol-
itics should be independent of each other. How-
ever, on Good Friday, the line that separates the
two became blurred when Roman Catholic priest
Father Clyde Harvey staged a silent protest out-
side of the Parliament.
The outspoken cleric told the T&T Guardian
he was concerned about the disillusionment of
citizens, particularly young people. He felt "young
people are really throwing their hands up in the
air and people are becoming more and more dis-
illusioned about politics and with society in general
and that is a recipe for social chaos."
Somebody had to "take a clear stand against
what is going on", he said.
Harvey said he got the idea for the protest last
Saturday. However, it was not prompted by the
furore over Tobago East MP Vernella Alleyne-Top-
pin s comments about Opposition Leader Dr Keith
"It has been building up over the last year or
so and that is why I say nobody could say I am
innocent to the extent that I myself have not done
something, so I am just as guilty as the rest of us.
One tends to say I do not know enough, I should
not get involved. One tends to say someone else
will do something about it," Harvey explained.
He said it was not his intent to make Parliament
a Good Friday bobolee: "The whole point is that
Parliament must never become a bobolee. But that
could only happen if we, every citizen, feel strongly
enough about that.
"When the people in Parliament lose their sense
of responsibility for Parliament and simply see
Parliament as a place to score political points and
destroy their political opponents the society has
to say no. This is not a partisan stance, it is a
stance that I hope every citizen of this country
can affirm," Harvey said.
While he agrees that the church and partisan
politics should be separate and apart, Harvey said
"there are times when the church has to clearly
uphold and defend the basic principles on which
our institutions rest."
Harvey said he hoped his action on Friday spurs
a "raising of consciousness, a rekindling of hope
no matter how small, a deepening of commitment
to the institutions that are part of the country."
"We cannot say we love T&T if we allow the
fundamental institutions of society to fall apart
before our eyes," he said.
From time to time, he added, the church speaks
out in society and "that is how it should be."
"I do not see myself as unique. I think there
are other people speaking out. The question is
what they say when they speak out," he said.
•See Page 8
Monday, April 6, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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Blurred line between
church and politics
Samaroo: Not the
first time religion
and politics mixed
not the first
had mixed. He expects it will not
be the last.
"It is not unusual for the church
to take a position on matters of
national issue," Samaroo said,
adding that what Harvey did was
not out of the ordinary.
"It is one of the things that
church should be doing because of
the moral authority that it holds in
society generally," he said.
Samaroo said one of the periods
when the church was most vocal
in T&T was in the 1950's when
there was a very serious debate
about the Divorce Bill.
"There was a lot of division in
society and the church took the
position that all Roman Catholic
Members of Parliament should not
vote for the Divorce Bill. There was
a lot of agitation, writing in the
newspaper and so on," he recalled.
Samaroo, who said Harvey's
action was overdue, is of the view
that the church should assert itself
more on issues of governance.
(IRO) leader Brother Harrypersad
Maharaj agreed with Samaroo,
adding that religion and politics are
considered to be the two ruling
bodies in the country. Politics, he
said, governs infrastructure,
development and so forth, while
religion rules over "moral and
"They must work hand in hand,
but each one must maintain their
own identity and feel free to
criticise the other if we feel that
we have crossed the line on either
side," Maharaj said.
However, the IRO president
warned that religious people ought
not to be "influenced by politics
and politics must not be influenced
by religion in terms of maintaining
their own identity."
He said there are times that one
has to congratulate or
acknowledge someone for the
good work or good things they
have done on both sides and he
thinks this should be done.
"If they have done things that
are not pleasing to the society
then (religious people) should also
have the right to speak out on the
things they feel are not right in
society," he said.
Fr Clyde Harvey leading a silent protest in front of the Parliament on Good Friday. PHOTO: CLYDE LEWIS
Roman Catholic Archbishop
Joseph Harris shares Harvey's view
that a stance must be taken.
He said it is not new for the
church to make its voice heard in
politics, especially when the society
is going awry. He pointed out that
late Archbishop Anthony Pantin
was considered to be the
conscience of the nation and from
time to time made his voice heard
on matters in T&T. That is no
different from what Father Harvey
did on Friday, Harris said.
"A lot of people think the church
should stay out of politics, but I
think you have to understand what
politics mean. Politics is different
from politicking and politics is not
partisan politics. Politics is
essentially the search for the
common good and because politics
is the search for the common good
the church has a right to express its
views on the common good," he
He added that one must consider
what is happening in Parliament
and determine whether it leads to
the "common good."
"After all, at the moment we are
all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Apart from being religious leaders
we are part of this country and we
have a desire to see this country
become the best that it can
become, so even from the point of
view of being citizens we have a
right to say what we see as
important," he said.
The Archbishop also suggested
that other religious bodies hold
politicians responsible for their
"Father Harvey and those who
carried on the silent protest are well
within their rights to ask that
politicians, who are leaders in the
society, live up to their vocation. I
think all religious bodies should help
in the adherence, to understand
what is at stake and what is at
stake is not so much infrastructure
but the soul of the nation," he said.
Harris said if citizens begin
talking about the soul of the nation
they have to ask themselves if
what they see happening between
politicians "is helping to build or
elevate the soul of the nation, or
bring it down."
The Archbishop said he is hopeful
politicians will keep their word and
obey the Political Code of Ethics
they voluntarily signed.
"I do not think any politician
wants to run afoul of the church,"
Harvey, who supported the
Archbishop's call on the Code of
Ethics, added: "If the tone of
Parliament carries over into the
elections this society will self-
destruct. Some people can make a
sincere commitment to live and
truly and fully adhere to the code of
political conduct and to deal with
the people's business on the
political platform rather than the
candidate's personal business," he
If this happens, Harvey said, "this
election campaign may be the best
we have ever had."
RC ARCHBISHOP: CHURCH AND POLITICS WANT THE SAME
As Fr Harvey leads silent protest on Parliament...
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