Persad-Bissessar was talking to reporters yesterday at the Maha Sabha’s Children’s Phagwa celebrations at Tunapuna Hindu school.
She said she was dissatisfied with how Manning has answered public queries about which State resources were given to the Lighthouse of the Lord Jesus Christ Church, being built by the Shanghai Construction Group (SCG), and about whose it is.
She said: “Mr Manning has not answered the questions at all.”
Persad-Bissessar saw harm in Manning’s remarks.
“He has gone off on a tangent — red herrings, distractions — and in a sense he wants to begin a religious war in this country. What he is doing is trying to defend what appears to be the indefensible. He has gone off to create friction among the various religious groups.”
Persad-Bissessar wondered why the Prime Minister listed which denominations had received past grants.
“Those were open, transparent matters, but this (Guanapo Heights) is where he is using State resources but there is no openness, no transparency, no accountability.”
She said Manning’s remarks on his own religious beliefs were a distraction last Friday.
“He was waxing ecclesiastical in the Parliament for 53 minutes at a time when it was a Private (Members) Day — that’s bad enough — but no one wants to hear about his personal religious practices and beliefs. To use the Parliament for that purpose was to distract from the real issue.”
The UNC leader said she wanted to hear more from Manning on Guanapo Heights.
“If State funds are being used, he is to clear the air. That is taxpayers’ money. It is okay to give lands to the religious organisations for their schools or for their church or temple or mosque, but it is not alright when it is that you are using State funding to build whatever it is, but there is no accountability and no transparency.
Mr Manning has not answered the many questions that have arisen. All he has done is to give a private, personal defence which is in fact no defence at all. Methinks he doth protest too much.”
She vowed to speak more on the issue on the UNC platform tonight.
“I have a copy of the Cabinet decision, the Cabinet Note. Someone put it in my postbox and I’ll be going into details of what he said. There are several inaccuracies in what he said in Parliament and I will deal with those to show that even when he tries to come to give an explanation, it is no explanation, but even then he has given certain inaccuracies.”
Earlier COP leader Winston Dookeran also hit Manning’s speech.
“I think Mr Manning has put himself in a very dangerous corner, when he attempted to attribute the rightful request on the part of the people to address the public policy issues by trying to incite a sense of religious intolerance,” said Dookeran.
He criticised Manning for alleging there is persecution of the Full Gospel faith.
Dookeran said: “That has never been an issue, and he is really undermining the very secular nature of the State. Once again he is using his Office of Prime Minister to create a sense of division in this society. The issue at stake is how do you address the public policy issues with respect to the involvement of the Shanghai group, whether or not the Government has been involved, and where he himself has been involved. Those are the issues to which the people wanted answers. He has not attempted to do so but rather he has made this a narrow political agenda for himself.”
He called on Manning to urgently explain the church to the country.
“I think it is a very important issue because it hits at the very secular nature of the State.”
Maha Sabha general-secretary, Sat Maharaj, told reporters that while the Roman Catholic Church is 2,000 years old and Hinduism is 5,000 years old, little was known about the female pastor for whom the Manning Government is building the church at the Heights of Guanapo.
“This woman has not yet come to the public. We don’t know if she exists, or if it is a phantom or a real woman.”
He hit Manning’s speech on Friday: “Fifty three minutes of parliamentary time, and he doesn’t answer the question, and he is comparing her — who has not yet established herself — to all these major religions of the world. He’s grasping at straws.”
In an earlier speech, Maharaj said the Maha Sabha’s religious leaders who were present at that Phagwa event, could all be seen publically, unlike the “lady on the hill”, for whom the Manning regime was building the church. He also called for more State funding of Phagwa, saying this year’s grant of $200,000 had to pay for functions all across the country.