Taharqa Obika

Gail Alexander

Former UNC senator and candidate Taharqa Obika has advised a UNC unit to refrain from using imagery that paints African people in a poor light.

Obika did so in a contribution to a UNC San Fernando West chat on Wednesday.

He was referring to pictures that appeared on a social media site sympathetic to the UNC. These concerned last Sunday’s controversial pool party at Bayside Towers.

Police were called to the location by management to deal with 40 plus youths who were congregating at the poolside. According to reports, police issued a warning but no one was charged with violating COVID regulations.

Gatherings beyond five are prohibited under COVID regulations.

With pictures of the poolside frolicking circulating over social media, authorities including the police have come under fire for allowing “different strokes for different folks,”

In the San Fernando West chat where Obika commented, pictures of upscale-looking pool party attendees were shown on a website sympathetic to the UNC.

Those pictured were labelled “PNM friends and financiers”. They were juxtaposed with pictures showing the Afro-Trini youths who were told in April by police to lie on their stomachs on the Sea Lots beach after police said they broke COVID regulations, going into the sea. Those boys’ photo was labelled “PNM Voters.”

But in his comment to UNC’s San Fernando West’s WhatsApp chat, Obika wrote, “This is the kind of juxtaposition that caused us to lose the (general) election. Please refrain from this type of imagery that paints African people in this kind of light. I hope the Comms (Communication) team is aware of this.”

“Ordinarily I would have quietly messaged the individual. But I recognised that my criticisms via group chats would serve as a teaching point for more people,” he said.

“Having served as an NJAC member, I can provide sharper perspective of how the African prefers to be represented.”

Asked by Guardian Media about his comment, Obika said he wasn’t trying to fight anyone but just wanted to provide a positive solution.

He added, “I’m concerned about the situation we have in T&T. We need to find a solution that will bring everyone on board. We need to add the word ‘Harmony’ to our national watchwords of Discipline, Tolerance and Production.”

“At this time in T&T we need to forge plans and focus on building a better society. Unless and until we get there, we need to keep working- forward- towards it.”

Obika, UNC’s Point Fortin candidate, is the latest former UNC frontliner to take issue with UNC’s actions including ads. Recently former Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial also took issue with party operations including ads which UNC used during the election campaign which she said was a disaster of a campaign.

UNC officials and UNC San Fernando West personnel were unavailable yesterday on Obika’s view.