PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last Friday night announced the launch of a “new forum” for members of the public at large to express views which will involve an internet website and a telephone hotline allowing callers “to register their opinions”.
The new forum will be called “The National Conversation” and will involve the heads of religious organisations, NGOs, youths, Opposition groups and “other stakeholder groups”.
“The job of leading this nation as Prime Minister requires that I also follow your views, your ideas, your sense of what needs to be done,” Persad-Bissessar said in her Independence Day address to the nation. TT celebrated its 51st Independence anniversary last Saturday.
“Our National Conversation begins this process now. I will listen to every community leader, each business group and labour representative, but I will humbly ask also that my own message and vision be heard so that together we can arrive at the best solutions and find common purpose for the greater good of all.” She continued, “I will ensure every opinion is garnered, each voice heard, and that the Government you elected acts in accordance with the will of the people. As I have consistently advocated in the past, the responsibility of leadership is having the demonstrated capacity to listen. And so this National Conversation will occur between me and all stakeholders.”
The Prime Minister said she was aware that many already express views. “Of all that might be said about me from the toughest critic, I assure you, my heart is and has always been, in the right place,” she said. “Rest assured that I am mindful of many of the sentiments expressed already, but I am equally aware that your government’s plans and vision are not adequately reaching you. That too must change. And it is through that centre, your words and the voice of God will guide me. When we speak to each other across the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago a better understanding will emerge among all groups.”
Ahead of a planned Cabinet reshuffle, the Prime Minister made clear that nobody in her Cabinet is invulnerable to being moved. “There are no sacred cows in your Government, every single member of your Government is equally responsible for the delivery of services and provision of good Governance,” she said. “I feel re-energised by the challenges. There is nothing that inspires me more than when I am among you all. It is where I get my inspiration and energy. So the process of the National Conversation brings me back to you.” She continued, “As Prime Minister over the past three years the demands of office did not always permit me to spend as much time among you, but my desire to connect with you is there.” She pledged to listen to all parties.
“It cannot and will never matter to me what side of the political field you belong to,” Persad- Bissessar said. “As we commemorate our 51st independence anniversary we must demonstrate that divisiveness is a thing of the past and that national interests are beyond petty political aspirations.” The Prime Minister spoke of mid-term expectations for her three-year-old Government.
“I recognise that the juncture of midterm in office is never easy for any government as we are caught between what we have been putting in place to effect lasting meaningful changes and the time for the results of those efforts to be seen,” she said.
“My legacy must be that of a woman who cared enough to do everything possible for everyone regardless of the political consequences, for it is my belief that through genuine service, people will ultimately know the good in your heart and judge you accordingly.” She pledged to continue to address crime, development and the economy.