On January 31st 2010, one national newspaper carried the headline “The Lioness roars Kamla’s dawn” in reference to an overwhelmingly decisive victory secured by Kamla Persad Bissessar as political leader of the UNC. In that election she secured a massive 13,000 votes, miles in front her contender’s 1300. On June 24th 2015 another newspaper reported from a political speech that she declared, “I am a woman who fights like a lioness for what I believe is right and for my country.”
Why is the comparison between our Prime Minister and this magnificent “queen of the jungle” which appears as a symbol of power, courage and nobility on family crests, coats of arms and national flags in many civilizations so strikingly appropriate? The literature points to two significant facts. The first is that the lioness treats with her cubs with extreme caution and attentiveness; a motherly attribute that it extends to cubs which are not even part of her own biological litter. Similarly, PM Bissessar has from assumption of office, characterized her leadership by a unique concern for children and single mothers.
From the Children’s Life Fund to “baby grants” to laptops for all secondary school students, the PM’s first term in office can be branded upon her concern for the children of Trinidad and Tobago. This maternal approach to governance was exemplified in 2011, when the Prime Minister met with a teenager who had allegedly made threatening and obscene remarks against her on a you-tube video. The PM then, went as far as to offer support to the teen through the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development. On June 25th 2015, PM Kamla encouraged and welcomed a young graduating student of the Febeau Government Primary School who wanted to sing for her although he (the student) was told it was not part of the programme. The young man, according to the print media eventually, “stunned the audience and stole the show.”
The second salient attribute of the lioness is the fact that it spearheads and is responsible for 90% of the hunting for food, making it the virtual leader of the pride. PM Kamla’s leadership over the last five years engaged a unique and collaborative approach with the Private Sector with particular focus on Finance, Information and Communications Technology, Education, Maritime Industries, Food Sustainability, Creative Industries and Energy and Energy Services. Today, she is relentless against a sustained and vitriolic attack from the predominantly masculine “political pride.” She has brought meaning to Margaret Thatcher’s famous quote, that if “if you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman”. Whist they talked, she delivered.
Several years ago the founding father of the UNC quipped, “if you see me and a lion fighting, feel sorry for the lion.” Perhaps that UNC stalwart did not foresee that his biggest political battle would have been against a lioness. With just over two months before an historic election, Kamla Persad Bissessar’s opposition are hunting her down in packs. But she has stood resolute, confident and fearless. Given the track record of the lioness and the loyalty of the cubs, in this fight, one can only feel sorry for the lions.