As we enter a New Year, we pause to give thanks to God for the many blessings we received in 2018, and the strength to overcome the myriad challenges and problems which are still ahead. Although we are facing trying times, together we must draw on our courage and resilience to face our difficulties, as we look forward with hope for brighter days ahead in 2019.
I am deeply concerned about the direction in which our country is heading under this Rowley-led administration, and for our part, we have engaged with people to hear their concerns and develop workable solutions to address some of the problems facing our nation.
To date, over 200,000 man hours of fieldwork and analysis of gathered data has been carried out. The result of some of this work can be seen in the results of the 2016 local government election where the UNC gained the highest number of votes as compared to any other party. It was also reflected in the results of the Barataria by election which our candidate won. In order to be similarly successful at upcoming local and general elections it is clear to us from the work done that the UNC has to evolve and usher in a new generation of young leaders guided by some with competent experience.
The decisions of today will have the greatest effect on the younger generations the 20 ,30, 40-year old. I believe that it is imperative that the UNC gives them the opportunity to be in government and make decisions to chart their own future. They have the competence, intelligence and ability and we must give them the support. We must present new faces, new names, diverse backgrounds, new ideas and move our party and country forwards, never backwards.
Reconstituting the UNC as it was pre-2015 will not be the way forward, neither will shortcuts and coalitions. For the past 3 years we have been quietly rebuilding the party with a focus on diversity, youth, meritocracy and competent experience. We will continue to rebuild rather than seek out unsustainable short-term shortcuts and quick fixes. Hard work, proper planning, efficient execution, promotion of new talent and merit-based recognition is the new order. Days of sleeping with the devil to win are over; we will put god in front and walk behind. God helps those who helps themselves.
In January 2019 we will convene a national assembly where we shall announce the opening of nominations for local election candidates and sometime thereafter opening of nominations for general election candidates. During the coming months we will also roll out our sectoral plans in greater detail for the rejuvenation of Trinidad and Tobago. Our plan is based on getting our nation working again.
During the 2010 to 2015 period much progress was made in improving the lives of the average citizen, the poor and vulnerable.
The government I led was one of work, delivery and compassion. We admit that we weren’t perfect and mistakes were made and the UNC and myself accept responsibility. Some may still have misgivings in supporting us which is understandable and this is the reason changes are being made, we will earn back your support.
But I also request that you honestly ask yourself are you better off today that you were in 2015?
Many of the hardships we experienced over the course of 2018 are a direct result of the Rowley Government’s failure to effectively govern, as well as their lack of vision and care for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Criminal activity continues at unacceptably high levels and we saw the regrettable statistic of 520 murders recorded by the end of 2018 – the highest number this decade. While we have seen increased activity by the TTPS, which is commendable, the reality is people continue to feel insecure and afraid. The scourge of crime has impacted every aspect of our lives.
For another year we have been burdened with increasing food bills, the rising cost of living, and a health care system in critical condition. Our economy has been mismanaged to the point of near collapse, and the growing level of joblessness is worrying.
As we head into a New Year, several thousand of our citizens remain unemployed, have no income, and limited prospects, as this Government has failed to put any measures in place for job creation.
I am aware of these critical problems facing us which are hindering our country’s path to growth and prosperity. I know, too, that despite the difficulties, you have shown determination and commitment to building a brighter future for our country.
On behalf of the UNC, my family and myself, all blessings for 2019.
The Hon Kamla Persad Bissessar, MP, SC
Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago and
Political Leader of the United National Congress