Countdown to Tolerance

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Thu Dec 20, 2012

Maurice Tomlinson's Countdown to Tolerance: Leaked Letter Likely Evidence of Politics, Not Progress

By Maurice Tomlinson

As the claimant in the action against the homophobic Immigration Law of Trinidad and Tobago, I was intrigued by the recent story in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper about leaked correspondence between the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and a representative of the UK-based group Kaleidoscope Trust. Apparently, over four months ago, the Prime Minister wrote a private letter to a British citizen to say that she intended to include the recognition of the human rights of homosexuals in the country’s new gender policy.

While I certainly applaud this potential human rights advance by the government of Trinidad and Tobago, I found it bewildering that such a significant public policy change—a change that will have an impact on a significant number of Trinidadian and CARICOM citizens—was communicated to a private individual in the UK months before our region gets to hear about it. This is not normal procedure in a democratic society.

More, the timing of the “leak” is entirely suspect: I launched my challenge against the Trinidad and Tobago immigration law just a couple of weeks ago. The release of the letter at this moment smacks of damage control.

I certainly hope this will not be another empty political promise similar to the one made by Jamaican Prime Minister the Most Honurable Portia Simpson-Miller. Nearly a year ago she promised to call for a parliamentary conscience vote to review the country’s 1864 anti-buggery law. Jamaica’s Minister of Information recently announced that this vote has been placed at the “bottom of the [legislative] pile” (read: no longer up for serious discussion). In this regard, I would be curious if there is an actual timeline in the mind of the Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

After all, four months have already elapsed since her promise of a new policy.