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bishop claude berkley

T&T’s religious leaders are asking all political parties and citizens to unite in a day of prayer for the gift of democracy, as the country recalls the 30th anniversary of the July 27, 1990 insurrection and they are calling on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to facilitate the effort.

The call was made yesterday in a release sent out by Archbishop Jason Gordon which was endorsed by several religious leaders, including Reverend Claude Berkley (Anglican Church), Reverend Dean Emeritus Dr Knolly Clarke (Inter-Religious Organisation), Reverend Joy Abdul-Mohan (Presbyterian Church), Reverend Maxine Forest-Edwards (Methodist Church North Trinidad Circuit), Pundit Lutchmidath Maharaj (Maha Sabha), Kes Gabre Yesus Nelson (Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church), Haji Imtiaz Ali (ASJA), Dr Stephen Julien (Spiritual Baptists) and Pastor Leslie Moses (Seventh Day Adventist Church).

The release noted that “democracy is a most precious gift of the citizens of any nation. It is both a privilege and a responsibility.” It said this should be “for all citizens a time of sobriety and reflection.” Noting the period in 1990 was a time when the country saw the “agitation and the disquiet” of the population, the release said it still did not prepare the citizenry for what unfolded at TTT and in the Parliament, the seat of this country’s democracy.

“Perhaps none of us believed that our democracy could be so fragile, so easily challenged,” the religious leaders said.

While there had been many protests and even riots over the course of T&T’s history, including the Hosay riots, Water riots, Labour riots of 1937 and the Black Power marches and state of emergency in 1970, the religious leaders said they are of the view that “on July 27, 1990, our nation lost its innocence”.

“Twenty-four people died in the course of the struggle as we fought to hold on to democracy. Many others were injured. Prime Minister ANR Robinson was shot and wounded. There was damage to property in the millions of dollars for which there was no insurance cover. The nation was in shock, as the world looked on. Thirty years later, we must remember the high price that we have paid to exercise our right to vote, the many lives that were lost so that we could be a democratic nation,” the release said.

They said this year’s anniversary is more significant because the country is in the midst of preparations for a general election.

As a result, the religious leaders said they are asking the nation “for one day, to stop, to reflect and to pray. In the midst of this time where we remember what divides us—ethnicity, class, political allegiance, geography etc—could we stop and pray for one day? Could we remember what unites us and why we struggle, why we compete for votes and the deeper reason behind the democratic process?”