Kamla: UNC stands ready
OPPOSITION LEADER Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she is ready to meet Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley as soon as possible and lead her team to the table for talks on crime.
In a phone interview with the Sunday Express yesterday, the former prime minister said it was unfortunate that Rowley was only now heeding the Opposition’s call to meet.
But she is willing to consult with the Government in the interest of the people, as Trinidad and Tobago is under siege by criminal elements. ‘The UNC stands ready, willing and able to meet with the Government and discuss anti-crime measures. If only the Prime Minister had heeded the call four months ago, so many lives could have been saved. But as the old adage goes, better late than never. We are ready, Prime Minister; we have always been ready as the people are our priority, always,’ said Persad-Bissessar.
She said she will lead her team from the Opposition’s benches, but she believes the conversations on how to treat with crime should be wider.
‘I believe that the business community, civil society reps from the unions, media, other political organisations and any stakeholder who wants to help should also be involved in discussions with the Government. No one person or group has all the answers. A holistic approach can only be implemented if we get the majority of society to buy in and drive the measures,’ she said.
She said the Opposition has always indicated it is willing to come together and discuss crime, and in April this year she made an open call to the Prime Minister to so do.
‘We have written to the Government multiple times before. In fact, just recently as April this year I asked Rowley to reconsider his rejection of collaboration and to meet. He stood in Parliament and rejected the offer. It does not matter if he responds positively or not. I have a duty to citizens to keep pushing for increased security and safety. I am responsible for my actions, he is responsible for his,’ she said.
‘Every window and door has been left wide open for Rowley to engage with the Opposition and the records are there for the country to see that all invitations and calls by the UNC were ignored as the country continued to be under siege by the criminal elements,’ she added.
Humility and prudence Persad-Bissessar said she clearly expressed then that the crime crisis demanded that all leaders exercise humility and prudence as they seek to protect citizens.
‘I indicated then that we must set aside vanity and egotism as too many lives are being lost and destroyed. We must work together,’ she said.
‘The victims and perpetrators of crime span all political affiliations, ethnicities, religions, social standings and income levels. No matter which sector of society we identify with, we must have the humility to accept this fact, put aside emotions and work together for all our citizens. All citizens must equally feel safe in Trinidad and Tobago,’ she added.
Persad-Bissessar said the Prime Minister has said emphatically that he wanted no help in crime fighting from the Opposition or former police commissioner Gary Griffith, and that he falsely accused the UNC of obstructing every effort of the Government to fight crime.
She also said that prior to her call for crime talks four months ago, year after year the Opposition had offered support to the Government to come up with anti-crime measures.
She pointed out that as far back as 2018 when the year started off with a murder surge, she invited then-attorney general Faris Al-Rawi to meet urgently to find bipartisan ways to tackle crime.
There was no response to the call for a joint Government-Opposition team to draft anti-crime legislation, she noted.
Persad- Bissessar said the UNC has an anti- crime plan and in the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago they are willing to share that plan with the PNM to prevent the killings, home invasions, rapes, robberies and breakdown of law and order in society.
‘It is unfortunate that after a multi-million- dollar regional crime symposium and a recent three-day retreat, the PNM is still unable to come up with a solution to the crime problem. However, it is fortunate that the Prime Minister has seen the glory of the rising sun and has expressed intent to extend an invitation,’ she said.