Address by Political Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar at Launch of Local Gov’t Elections Screening of Candidates
Good afternoon to you all and thank you for joining us as we intensify our walk back to the governance of Trinidad and Tobago.
We have come to a time of great turbulence in our nation.
In 10 months, now in their 11th month, an Administration has proven that even the best laid foundation can be destroyed if you are dedicated to self-service above service to the people.
Call on our MPs, councillors, youth arm, women’s arm and all activists to go out in the field and to give assistance wherever they can. I call on them all to provide a report ASAP to me.
The destabilization of our nation has hurt everyone:
Families are now without incomes;
Our working men and women are poorer having had no increases in incomes, but faced with food and fuel price increases, and
Crime and violence continue to be Keith Rowley’s only growth sector.
And yes, the people want to see that we are there to know and feel their pain with them.
But our people are stronger than that; they also want to know that we will stand and fight with them, and for them.
As we launch the screening process for the Local Government Elections today, this is our re-commitment to the people…
We will stand with you…
We will fight with you…
And we will win for you!
THE CHALLENGES WE FACE
No one here would be a stranger to the challenges that have come with the Keith Rowley PNM Administration.
In 10 months, thousands of citizens have lost their jobs and families are now without incomes, without savings and without opportunities to turn things around.
In just 10 months, crime and violence has returned to the pre-2010 levels where even young children live in fear, rather than having the opportunity to enjoy their childhood.
In just 10 months, food prices have taken a track back to the pre-2010 PNM, but this time it’s worse because they have applied taxes to foods that were not taxed before.
In just 10 months, fuel prices have been increased, twice!
Imagine that – they have destabilized the economy, increased unemployment by the thousands, maliciously revoked social support to thousands of families in need, increases costs in food and fuel and today…they have one message.
And that message is to blame everyone, for everything, at every opportunity.
Not ONCE have they taken responsibility.
They like the arrogance of saying “we are in charge”, but they lack the capacity to act like it.
And in just 10 months, we have seen a Government that has re-defined what it means to distort, mislead and misinform.
They have done it in the Parliament.
They have done it on the platforms.
They have done it in the Cabinet.
And they do it every day in their Ministries.
Not a single Minister of Government has come forward with a tangible, workable solution to anything in 10 months.
What they have done, however, is to come forward with the worst form of distortions and half-truths.
They believe running a Government means attacking the ones who were there before, even if they have to make it up as they go along.
And what is the state of the economy?
When we left office, challenges were being faced frontally.
Our Foreign Exchange Reserves were stable at well over US$10B.
Inflation was under control.
Our savings in the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund were safe at over US$5.7B.
Those in most need were being given the structured support they need to build better lives.
Students were pursuing their academic careers without the constant fear of losing financial support to complete their studies.
Our standing with the global agencies remained strong.
Our State companies were being better managed, with some turning profits for the first time in ages, such as National Flour Mills.
People were secure in their jobs and felt confident about spending their incomes and supporting small businesses.
Small businesses were on the rise, assuming their rightful place as the lifeblood of an enterprise economy.
Crime was brought to its lowest in 31 years; compared to last September, immediately as the Rowley PNM Administration came in, being a record bloodiest month.
Billions were invested to restore the energy exploration sector that they suffered and stifled.
They left exploration to languish even as they and their God-Fathers allowed billions to be mismanaged at a once strong Petrotrin.
The budget deficit was being managed, with a plan to return to balanced budgeting and finally fix the remaining economic weaknesses we inherited from the PNM.
This was the nation we built.
But what exists today?
They quietly withdrew $2.5B from your children’s savings in the HSF.
The Foreign Reserves Account has declined by over US$1B.
They have invited the IMF to run the Ministry of Finance, while the Minister focuses on what he does best – hostile arrogance.
Fuel prices have been increased twice, with absolutely no plan for how families can remain stable and maintain a safe balance between what they earn and what they spend.
Crime has taken on a new form, migrating almost invisibly from town to town, terrorizing citizens, with some of the worst detection and prosecutions levels ever.
Violence is morphing into something even more dreadful than people can imagine, with weapons of war turning up in random places and weak cover-up excuses from the Rowley PNM.
Thousands of poor families are being heartlessly denied the support they need to find their way and build their lives.
What now exists is a Government built on self-service and political brutality against those who do not support them.
So brutal are they that they even brutalize many who do support them.
VICTORIES ONE BY ONE
But we will not be the Opposition that they were between 2010 and 2015; every time you heard a loud and senseless voice, it was the PNM Opposition saying something.
We are not just talking.
We are walking.
We are listening.
We are working.
And we are fighting!
In the petitions filed for five constituencies, contesting the results in the last General Election, they never believed that we would have progressed as far as we did.
In the case where judgement was delivered yesterday, they never believed the High Court would rule against their Attorney General.
Together with former AG Anand Ramlogan and others in this case, we sought to challenge the constitutionality of theCommissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Selection Process) Order 2015.
This case was brought by retired police inspector Mr Harridath Maharaj who was represented by myself and former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan S.C.
It is hilarious for an AG to celebrate the removal of his Cabinet colleague from a process of selecting a COP and DCOP because of his framing of an order that was deemed unconstitutional while being ordered to pay costs and still declare himself a winner.
If he felt that this was the right way to go why did he bother to defend the case at all or even better why draft such an order in the first place. This must be demoralising to his lawyers who defended his case and lost. Maybe shelling out taxpayers’ money for costs does not bother him.
In the case of forcing them to account, they never believed that we would put the Parliament to work, even as they have disgraced the Parliamentary system by manipulation.
The PNM is today, in 2016, where the PNM was by the end of 2009 – the population has turned on them having seen the greed, incompetence, corruption and arrogance that defines everything PNM.
And as they see the tide turn on them, they will become more arrogant, and more brutal in the treatment of those who will not support them and abide by their domination.
IT FALLS TO US
Today therefore, it falls to us.
As the Opposition, we have found ourselves having to do the work of the Government on numerous occasions.
We know how to do the job and we have no problem doing it from where we are.
Our mission is to serve the people and if it means that they hold office while we run this country, then until they are voted out, this is what we will do!
And it is a big responsibility; for both Central Government and Local Government.
In fact, many of you will know that my start was in the Local Government fraternity, getting to know the real issues that affect people every day.
It is through Local Government that we understand the things people feel, not only what is reported in the news.
It is through Local Government that we can touch the lives of people individually, encourage them, help them, support them and stand and fight with them.
This Local Government election will be most important in taking down the face of arrogance that the Rowley PNM is hiding behind.
We must show them that they will not be allowed to use political power as a weapon against people in the way they have.
As we begin the screening process, the candidates who will emerge will find themselves at the forefront of a heated political battle.
It will be challenging, difficult at times, and even discouraging.
But as the ones who will stand at the forefront, and be the link directly to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, you must be resolute.
Today, as we begin this process, we do it with the commitment that whatever the circumstances, however long it takes, whatever it takes out of us, we will fight and continue fighting until the true Trinidad and Tobago is restored.
We are always stronger together.
We will fight.
AND WE WILL WIN!
My dear brothers and sisters, I thank you!