SLF Condemns the Use of Homophobic Language/Bullying by Elected Representatives and Public Officials.
The Silver Lining Foundation (SLF) is once again calling on all elected representatives and public officials to conduct themselves in a manner that is befitting of their office, to the benefit of all citizens of our nation.
The use of language that is crude, offensive and inflammatory which discriminates or persecutes persons or groups in society, has no place inside the walls of our country’s Parliament or on our nation’s streets.
While the Foundation understands that our political landscape often lends itself to “picong” and colourful vocabulary by our politicians, we are however pleading with these persons to tone down their incendiary rhetoric, avoid personal attacks and stick to the issues in their contributions to various bills and motions brought to Parliament for debate. The issues that currently affects our nation are too important and far reaching to be easily reduced through nonsensical political “picong” by our elected officials while citizens continue to feel neglected, underrepresented and oppressed.
The Foundation makes these calls in reference to the highly offensive comments directed at Member of Parliament for Princes Town, Mr. Barry Padarath, allegedly made by the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Colm Imbert, in a Facebook post which has subsequently gone viral and sparked an outpouring of public outrage for the homophobic nature of these statements.
The Foundation understands the Minister has now retracted his alleged comments by insisting his account was hacked and the offensive posts were not made by him.
However responding to the backlash, the Minister flippantly dismisses these posts as mere “risqué comments”, and does not outright condemns the homophobia attached to it. And, as if to add insult to injury, the Minister then unleashes a homophobic rant of his own when he says: “His (Padarath) proclivities, whether real or imagined, are his business. Rest assured, I will keep a safe distance.”
SLF would like to assure the Minister that Mr. Padarath’s “proclivities”, whether real or imagined, should not have him feeling “threatened”, “worried”, “concerned”, “anxious” or “afraid”, that he has to “keep a safe distance”.
Mr. Padarath is an elected official to the House of Representatives and is a parliamentarian colleague of Mr. Imbert’s, and therefore he should be afforded the same degree of respect befitting of the portfolio of the Minister of Finance.
We remind the Minister that comments like these are equivalent to cyber bullying and further questions what a person’s sexuality has to do with their contribution to a parliamentary debate on our nation’s budget.
Should the Minister have further issues with this, SLF extends a welcome invitation to the Minister so we may engage in a dialogue regarding homophobia and the negative effect this has on a person and on the wider society.
SLF is also condemning the inflammatory use of the word “princess”, used by the Minister of Sport, the Honourable Darryl Smith, in reference to the Princes Town MP, during his contribution to the budget debate proceedings.
Perhaps the Honourable Minister mispronounced the name of the constituency and we would like to afford him the benefit of the doubt, at this juncture. However in future reference the Minister should take careful note that the constituency he refers to is named “Princes Town” and NOT “PRINCESS Town”. While we find this error unfortunate and shameful, we would like to remind the Minister that name- calling, like other verbal attacks, can be powerful and damaging to impressionable young minds.
As a youth oriented Foundation that focuses on bullying in schools, we are repeatedly inundated with calls from young persons who share with us their pain and long suffering of being harassed and taunted from what appears firstly as innocent jokes and simple nick names that soon manifests itself to verbal bullying by their peers, and in extreme cases, their teachers and parents.
When you factor what this does to the child questioning his/her sexuality and gender expression/identity, in a society known for its intolerance and bigotry on this issue, this type of bullying has a very powerful impact on their well-being.
Reference is made to the recent case of 16 year old George Kazanjian, who tragically committed suicide in 2011, after being bullied by his peers because of his perceived sexuality. Sadly, it will come as no surprise to any of us, if there have been other similar cases since then which were unreported or simply covered up because of our country’s homophobic tendencies.
Given the Minister’s portfolio and its strong influence on youth empowerment and involvement we hope he appreciates the sensitivity that is needed when dealing with this issue with respect to the nation’s youths. We also trust that he would use his portfolio and public profile as an advocate against bullying of all variations, and set the proper example in his future interactions with his Princes Town Parliamentary colleague.
Finally we asked that all representatives and their respective political parties continue to abide by the Code of Ethical Political Conduct and the Council for Responsible Political Behaviour which has as one of its key objectives the “promotion of respect for human rights, the pursuit of civil and political liberties, the tolerance of divergent opinions, full and active participation of all in the political process”.
We trust that this will be maintained and upheld by all our leaders as they continue to govern our nation to prosperity, inclusion and acceptance.
Jeremy Steffan Edwards
The Silver Lining Foundation 470-1967