Speaking notes of The Hon Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the St Helena Hindu School, on Mon 13th Nov, 2017
Speaking notes of the Political Leader of the United National Congress and Opposition Leader of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, The Hon Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the St Helena Hindu Primary School, on Monday 13th November, 2017.
I have seen in this past year a tremendous transformation taking place in our party, and that has been the empowerment of our local government councillors and aldermen.
Our MPs, Senators, Councillors and Aldermen, I think for the first time I have seen Team UNC, with everyone coming together and working together. And that is what we need to do.
I think if there is one thing that we can keep in our minds and our hearts always is that nothing can stop us, and that the UNC is a great party.
I am UNC, and I am proud! Are you UNC? Are you proud? Let no one make you think that you are lesser than anyone else.
That is one strategy I am seeing from others – where they will say all manner of things about UNC people, but we are part of this country, where every creed and race has an equal place and must have an equal place.
So we stand side by side, coming out of slavery, coming out of indentureship, coming out of the cane fields, coming out of the oil fields, from the rice fields, everywhere.
We are proud to be UNC and we will remain proud and committed.
In 2010 the entire map changed to yellow. You remember that? From Toco/Sangre Grande straight up to Port of Spain. Coming down south – all yellow except for one spot of red – Point Fortin.
In the local government election we were able to get more votes than the PNM.
Let us learn from our losses, let us take responsibility to do better. Once we divide, we lose. Look at what happened in Toco/Sangre Grande in the local government election – we tied. Do you know that we lost one seat by 29 votes, and that one seat would have given us control of the Corporation. Why did we lose it? We had a third candidate. We must not let that happen again. We must be there to pick up every single vote in every election.
Now there is one area that I’m very worried about and it has to do with the EBC – because the EBC is the most important institution for free and fair elections, to monitor elections and to ensure that at the end of the day, the tenets of democracy are taken care of.
Recently you would have seen the appointment of a Chief Elections Officer.
The first we heard of it was when the Prime Minister was asked whether he was consulted about that appointment. He said yes, but why don’t you go and ask Kamla? Because the President would have had to consult the Leader of the Opposition. Once again he lied.
This man is now a pathological, serial liar. In five minutes in the Budget debate, he lied 27 times.
Each time he speaks – do not believe what he says. Do not trust what they say, because it is not only him, there is a pattern of behavior of this Rowley PNM.
So he tells the media that the EBC Chief Elections Officer, the President consulted him, and in the same way he would consult with the Opposition Leader.
The President does not appoint the Chief Elections Officer. Therefore there is no duty to consult the Opposition Leader.
There are some positions, yes, where the President consults the Opposition Leader and the Prime Minister, but for the Chief Elections Officer, the President has no part to play in that appointment.
That appointment is made by the Public Service Commission, and when they go through their process, then they consult the Prime Minister, not me, not the Opposition Leader.
So they consulted him under Section 121 of the Constitution, and he signed off. I had nothing to do with that.
If I were consulted, I have serious concerns with the person appointed. If you go to the Act, the Chief Elections Officer is mentioned over 150 times. Why? Because it is the most important job in ensuring free and fair elections – the Chief Elections Officer.
It was only after that that we found out that the CEO was related to a Government Minister. And now we find out that this person was a Senior Legal Officer at the EBC. And when we challenged the decision of the EBC to extend the voting hours in the 2015 General Election, both the High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled that the EBC acted unlawfully. And who was the legal advisor to the EBC? The same person who is now appointed Chief Elections Officer. That is bad too.
The person who gave the advice that caused the EBC to spend millions in defending their actions is today promoted. It seems to me there is clearly something more in the mortar than the pestle.
In making this appointment the Public Service Commission bypassed a number of persons who were eminently more qualified than the person appointed.
These persons have given their life to the public service and qualified themselves in the field of administering and managing elections. All bypassed!
The Prime Minister said there were 14 applications, there were in fact 44 applications for the post of Chief Elections Officer.
Out of the 44 the Public Service Commission selected a person who is not a public officer, but somebody who was a contract officer.
This is a serious issue. Because the way our Public Service is structured is to give you a certain level of independence in the performance of your duties. As a public officer you are protected by security of tenure, meaning they can’t fire you if you don’t do what they want.
But when you are a contract officer, you are hired at the whim and fancy and you can be fired at the whim and fancy of a person.
Does this person satisfy the minimum requirements for the job? The advertisement for the post stated that the candidate should have at least 8 years’ experience in managing electoral matters. This person does not have 8 years’ experience.
I have heard the concerns of many persons regarding this appointment and it is a matter that is of grave concern to every right thinking person in this country.
We look for the utmost integrity and independence in a Chief Elections Officer of the EBC.
We have received advice in this matter from eminent senior counsel and from distinguished Queens Counsel in this matter and having considered the advice, we are in the process of drafting proceedings to challenge this appointment in the courts in the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and in the interest of securing and preserving the democracy of our country and the rule of law.
I had raised this matter in September, where I read from the audit report.
After I read from that report it became public knowledge and Petrotrin moved to appoint some investigators I think the group is called Kroll and we are being told that that report would come out some time in the middle of this month, November.
I am reading in the paper now, Thursday of last week and yesterday, Sunday, that since that report became public knowledge, that the production numbers of the particular leasehold operator known as A&V Drilling, their production has fallen by about 65% for July and August. They started the audit report in July. They moved Mr. Deokiesingh at the same time that they started the audit report. He was the person doing the measuring, and I told you before we believe there was collusion to give false reports about the amounts of the production.
So, lo and behold, the audit was started in July, completed in August, and I read it on the platform in September. We do not have the production numbers for September, October, and now we are into November, but on the website of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs there is an energy sector report that shows that the total amount of production from the IPSCs – the leaseholders of which A&V Drilling is one – that shows a great reduction in July and August.
When the audit was started, they moved this man, and the recorded production fell by 65%. You know what that means? That means that all the rest had to be fake oil.
The explanation being given in the newspaper by way of Cabinet Note that explains it as a “natural decline in new wells.” That is one of the many lies.
So we await the report, and we demand, that when that investigation is completed and the report is ready, that report should be made public.
In the meantime I have asked the Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy, has this particular leaseholder been paid for fake oil? Because I am being told that after this information came out there was pressure on Petrotrin to pay the leaseholder for the oil, but you can’t do that – there is an investigation ongoing. Have you paid it while this investigation is ongoing? We need to get answers.
The record of the People’s Partnership
So my friends, let me thank you for being here tonight. I will not campaign from this platform tonight, but I will campaign for my party, the great UNC.
Because when we were in Government, along with the other members of the People’s Partnership, we had the best record of delivery throughout the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago.
Today people are crying, they are losing jobs. The Prime Minister said “no job cuts” but you see he doesn’t walk and talk and meet and greet with people. He has no care for people, because if he did he would see what we as MPs are seeing in our offices – when people come to us this is one of the main cries.
We created in our time, over 55,000 new jobs. But through this Rowley-led regime we will see the loss of more than 55,000 jobs.
Think of a father, afraid to face his family because he does not know where the next meal will come from. Does Rowley ever think about that? He says “eat green fig and dhal and rice” so for him that is hardship, but he does not know how many of us are eating dhal and rice every day.
What have they been doing to create jobs? Nothing!
He stood on a platform yesterday – a 44 page speech – talking about Vision 2030. What is that? Vision 2030 is a recycled version of Manning’s Vision 2020. So they recycled it – a mish-mash of ideas with no comprehensive or cohesive plan. Pie in the sky dream that will never take our country forward.
We said it repeatedly before election and we continue to say it – they have no plan. So now they want to try to convince you after two years “we have a plan, this is it – 2030.” If you even have the energy to read that, trust me, it is not even worth the paper it is printed on. It will not work.
I have offered solutions to you, we have offered solutions – we have talked to you about the green economy, the blue economy, the silver economy – different ways to diversify our economy and grow it. For the last two years I have talked to you about the Digital Economy, which is the way to go, which is where we have to go.
Someone asked me about alternative energy, well we had set up a fund with the World Bank for us here in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean to make use of alternative energy. Since this Government came into office, all of that is probably on a shelf somewhere. Because they really have no plan, no clue, no idea how to go forward.
We do not just stand on a platform and complain. We have a plan. We have many plans and solutions which we are building on and improving on. We know some of it worked 2010-2015, but the world is changing every day and we have to keep working and improving.
I assure you that your team UNC is working to improve that plan.
Since they came into office, they came in on a cry of crime and they had a 10-point plan to fight crime. But since they came in they have not implemented any of these things in the 10-point crime plan. And crime continues to increase.
Since they came into office over 1,000 people have been murdered in this country. And what have they done? They have dismantled many of the programmes we put in place to deal with crime – initiatives which brought serious crime down to the lowest levels in 31 years under my watch.
If you ever want to see good governance in this country, do not back down, and do not be afraid. And do not fall for their propaganda. Let us unite, let us work together. The real enemy is the Rowley PNM.
History will show you every time we were divided we lost.
There are those who want to keep us divided. But we must learn from our mistakes.
We need to push our children to pursue education. But under this Government I don’t even know if there’ll be a UTT that they can go to. They cut the GATE and now they are going to cut the UTT by half. Fazal Karim did a lot of work in the area of tertiary education beyond secondary school level – training in carpentry, masonry – but they’ve cut all those programmes. So where are young people to go under the PNM?
They have nowhere to go, and could fall into bad ways.
We had programmes for them coming out of school, we had jobs for them thereafter, they’ve cut all of this.
In every single sector, this government has failed. Health, education, infrastructure development, crime-fighting.
I have reminded you that the key jobs of any government are to provide, protect, and invest in its people.
This government has failed to protect its people. In their homes, in schools, on the streets.
The second responsibility is to invest in the human resources, that is the whole education sector.
And a key area – providing for people – they have failed. To have a social safety net, an economy that is growing and which will create jobs to provide for people – they have failed.
We need to work to get them out of office, because if we continue down this pathway, a generation will be lost.
There is another pattern of this Government where they are going in to break down people’s homes – Windsor Park and Farm Road in St Joseph. I had worked with all these communities prior to becoming Prime Minister, Penal, Diego Martin, throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
Another aspect of the PNM’s DNA is that they don’t like to see anybody with a house.
I give my commitment tonight that wherever they come to mash up your house, I am standing in front of the backhoe. We have a team of lawyers and we will fight them again.
You see they don’t understand. They give their people million-dollar apartments in Victoria Keys, but your little shack they don’t want you to have that, they will break it down.
When I campaigned in 2015 I reminded you, we had a plan with the Land for the Landless and squatter regularization, because I know what it is not to have a house.
In 2015 their supporters were crying “Kamla going to shut down GATE, she’s going to shut down CEPEP and URP,” but nothing like that ever happened, it is this wicked PNM government that is cutting everything.
They have three strategies:
Demonizing known UNC people
This Government wants to act like police, with the powers of the police. They came into the Parliament and read a warrant – it is only the police that can have warrants.
They are boasting about investigating and taking computers from the Port Authority – no Ministry has the power to do that.
The day a Government gets involved in police matters know you are heading towards a dictatorship.
We stopped them in Parliament – I have always said we would pass good law. They came with an Order to appoint a Police Commissioner, but they put the Minister of National Security at the front – you can’t do that. We went to Court and we had those parts of the Order struck out. And we will continue to fight.
The Revenue Authority – we have seen a draft bill, which initially required a special majority because it is going to encroach on people’s privacy rights, but they think they will not get our support so now they have removed anything that has to do with a special majority.
This is very dangerous. They want to replace the BIR with a Revenue Authority which will be headed by a Board appointed by the Minister of Finance. So you will have a member of the political directorate controlling inland revenue. We cannot support that!
So tonight I give them fair notice – they bring that Bill as it is we cannot support it. And if they pass that without a special majority, I have a team of lawyers ready to take them to Court.
I thank you once again for your support. If there is one message you must leave with here tonight is that you must never, ever be afraid.
And do not ever surrender to the brutishness and the threats of the PNM.
I am UNC and I am proud!
We are UNC and we are proud!
Stay proud, we are a great people and this too shall pass.
Thank you all.
Senator Anita Haynes
Public Relations Officer