The 2015 general election campaign appears to have started, as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar appealed to United National Congress (UNC) supporters to stand behind whoever was selected to represent the 41 constituencies.
Persad-Bissessar addressed the issue during the UNC’s annual Christmas dinner at Rienzi Complex, Couva, on Saturday night.
She asked that party supporters work hard to ensure that the persons selected were elected by more than 50 per cent of the votes.
“There are 41 constituencies and there can only be 41 candidates. I know there will be hundreds who are well qualified and fully committed to the vision of our party and are prepared to work to make our country a better place. But not everybody who is suitable will make the cut. But the message I want to leave with you is that when we make a decision, we want all of you to stand behind whoever is your candidate and work hard to ensure that that person is elected—not just elected, but elected with more than 50 per cent of the votes so there would be no second ballot,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said the UNC had not yet started its screening process and will do so at the appropriate time.
She said the UNC had become more democratic over time and further reforms would be tabled at the party’s national executive meeting.
The reforms, she said, would ensure that the party had a stronger foundation upon which to advance a broader spectrum of views and opinions for the betterment of the UNC and the country.
Persad-Bissessar told the gathering that as in all families there would be disagreements, but all decisions made by the People’s Partnership Government would be for the benefit of Trinidad and Tobago.
“Put country first and stand firm to defend your Government and ensure that it is re-elected in 2015. And so I want to urge you to never become complacent. Do not be seduced by basket or by polls, no matter how professional. Every poll is a snapshot of opinion at a given time,” she said.
But she noted the election polling thus far had put her Government in a good position.
“The only poll that counts is the poll on election day. That’s why every one of you must undertake the task of building momentum to win. That must be your primary goal,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said the team managing the campaign would be led by former ambassador to the United Nations Rodney Charles.
“I have complete faith is the work they are doing and I encourage you to get to know them and work with them,” she said.
She also asked the UNC foot soldiers to correct any public misinformation.
“When we undertake a development project we consider how best it serves the country and the community where it is located. It comes through consultation,” she said.
Admitting that her Government had faced some major challenges in its term, Persad-Bissessar said their mistakes were never swept under the carpet.
“As a responsible Government we acknowledged when we were wrong and we took corrective action and moved on,” she said.
The People’s Partnership’s most important campaign promise, she said, was procurement legislation.
“We have passed it after all manner of obstructionism from the PNM (People’s National Movement). They don’t like it because it plugs all loopholes in the award of State contracts and allows greater transparency and accountability.
“I also promised constitution reform, and after several months of exhaustive consultation with the people we introduced and passed a Constitution (Amendment) Bill to expand our democracy and give more power to the people. The bill curtails my own power, and I wanted it so. It means I can serve only one more term as Prime Minister,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said despite falling oil prices, the People’s Partnership would continue to manage the economy professionally, while protecting the vital social programmes created to help the poor and less fortunate, including the monthly $500 grant for deserving mothers.
And she wished the country a Merry Christmas, saying Christmas was a time for caring about family, neighbours and friends—a time to lend a caring hand.