HON. KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, SC, MP
MNF: TUNAPUNA HINDU SCHOOL – 13 MAY 2013
(Check against delivery)
Thank YOU St Augustine.
Thank you Tunapuna.
Thank you Trinidad and Tobago.
It’s so good to be home and amongst family.
I am happy to be here with you my partners!
Thanks to all those who took time to send me mother’s day messages.
FORMER ST AUGUSTINE MPs
What a wonderful place St. Augustine is.
You’ll recall that St Augustine was once held by Dr John Bharath, who stood up against PNM bulldozers to protect the rights of his constituents…
Thank you, Dr. Bharath
We also cannot come here without saying thank you to the stalwart John Humphrey, Dr Bharath’s son Vasant, men who served this area and the country without fear or favour.
Today our COP partners, Prakash Ramadhar and Winston Dookeran, are standing up for you in the People’s Partnership coalition.
The history of these soldiers tells us that we have always been strong in the East/West Corridor.
Let’s give them a round of applause.
PARTNERSHIP SOLID AS A ROCK
I told you one week ago we are solid as a ROCK … and tonight we see the evidence; our partners standing united.
We welcome all of you from the North, South, East and West and our supporters from Central
They are the symbols of a strong People’s Partnership.
PROGRESS UNDER THE PARTNERSHIP
Eleven days from today would mark our third year Anniversary; a political renaissance that witnessed more than 430-thousand citizens taking a quantum leap forward and electing our People’s Partnership coalition.
Our victory to office was the result of all our peoples coming together for a common good, to rescue our nation from the gross incompetence and mismanagement of the last government.
We agreed then as we reaffirm now that we could have different ideologies within our individual political groups … but we also agreed that Trinidad and Tobago was more important than any one man or party.
Such differences in philosophy do not divide us.
It makes us stronger.
Tonight I pledge to you that I will continue to hold your hands and walk with God in front, so we can rebuild our country, together.
PNMs DISMAL RECORD
Sometimes in forging ahead we tend to forget how bad things were under the PNM.
We were in a crisis … the worst our country had experienced in decades.
Men and women plundered the treasury while you were denied your basic needs.
And the PNM did not move!!!
Criminals had taken over our neighbourhoods.
The PNM came to the Parliament confessed gangs were growing but then turned and feted gang leaders and gave them million dollar contracts.
They looked the other way as criminals were raping our mothers and daughters and slaughtering our sons and fathers.
Kidnappings for ransom had become a booming business.
In one year brutal murders took away 550 of your countrymen. (Half a thousand people.
Our men and women felt a sense of hopelessness and despair, not only because of crime, but also because some of the basic needs in life could not be met, but that too will change.
The life of a Prime Minister is demanding, but a good leader must always make time to either listen to the news or read a newspaper every day.
It is one of the ways of staying connected to what is going on.
In this weekend’s newspapers… a “letter to the editor” moved me.
The letter was signed, S. Williams…
Miss Williams is a 33-year-old mother of two… Who asked a simple question…?
She was asking how to qualify for a home?
This is one of the reasons that apart from our housing drive via the HDC, we have also launched our “Land for the Landless” programme.
And I told our Minister of Housing, that this plan must be 100 per cent transparent… and I told him that no one should ever wonder how or when the land is being distributed.
Do you know that in the space of four months approximately 40,000 persons applied for land, under this programme?
I told Minister Moonilal, that every one of them must have an equal chance…
Our land for the landless program must be fair and responsible to all citizens…
So the Ministry came up with a new system for this program…
Out of the 40,000 applications, 10,000 persons were shortlisted based on a point system detailed in the application form.
Points were given based on several criteria, including family size, persons with disabilities, state employees and more…
Out of the points system, 10,000 persons have qualified for the program.
And I maintain, the allocation of the land for the landless program must be fair to all citizens, no matter religion or race or politics or space or place or gender…
Everyone must have an equal chance to own a home…
That is why, next Tuesday, on May 21st… Ms Williams… and anyone else who has been shortlisted, will know if they have been chosen for one of the first 500 lots of land, allocated under this programme.
500 sealed receipt numbers, will be drawn from a transparent container that will have all 10,000 shortlisted applications.
All 10,000! Fair and Equal!
It will be randomly drawn in front of a public audience and on national television.
I will not stand for any backroom deals or persons names being moved up the list…
Of course… Once you are selected… It is not automatic you will be allocated a lot if your receipt is selected.
There is a process of verification as you will have to meet set criteria.
Next week I will fill you in all the other ways we are moving to help you with the construction of your home.
As your government moves to expand the standard of living of all citizens, I see it as equally important for us to make our homes and communities safer…
So let me address crime…
Sisters and Brothers, crime remains our number one priority and that is why every time I come to you I report on new initiatives and keep you up to date with strategies that have already been implemented.
We promised to fix crime so you have a right to know how effective our strategies are.
Between 2003 and 2010 the killers and criminals declared war on citizens.
The PNM responded with blimps, anacondas and a library full of crime fighting plans which did nothing to provide safety and security of the person.
Today I can tell you that the National Security Council which I am privileged to Chair is working and working well.
I am committed to make it work.
I am committed to reversing the trend and declaring the war on the criminals.
I must make it work for all the families who have had to endure pain over the years.
Let me take this opportunity to express deepest sympathy to the mother and family of young Sunshine Alfred murdered several days ago.
To all the mothers and fathers who have lost loved ones, we assure you that we are working to get it right.
No mother should have to go through that pain.
Last week I reported that serious crime had come down by 36 per cent in the first quarter and I announced measures to fight back with greater force.
ILLEGAL CELL PHONES
Tonight, I will tell you more because as I said crime is number one on the agenda.
On the last occasion I told you about our plan to deal with illegal cell phones in our prisons.
On Friday, the Commissioner of Prisons reinforced that decision when he said that illegal cell phones are the most serious threat to security in the prisons.
I am reminded that PNM Minister in the Ministry of National Security Donna Cox in 2009 had admitted to the House of Representatives that gang leaders were running their organizations from the prisons.
She said then that crime bosses use cell phones to conduct their affairs, which include executing rivals, money laundering and other crimes including kidnappings.
So here it was that a Minister was admitting to the problem, but what did they do about it?
They did nothing!!
Not only that but today when we act, they raise their voices in opposition.
Today they condemn us for taking swift action.
While the PNM was quick to condemn us for blocking illegal mobile calls out of our prisons, the Express Newspaper, in an editorial said that it is long overdue.
The opinion piece said that the matter was of deep concern and urgency and that it deserved the attention of everyone with the responsibility to ensure the integrity of the security systems at the nation’s prisons.
The only people who want prisoners to keep their cell phones are some in the PNM … everybody else, including the Prison Officers Association, know that it’s a security risk and they are happy with your government’s move.
The President of the Association Ceron Richards acknowledged that the problem has been around for years and that his association was “elated” to hear about the plan.
We assure him and his Association that we would implement this and other measures to protect the prison officers and the society.
This is delivery!