OPPOSITION LEADER: 2024 IS A NEW CHAPTER IN OUR LIFE’S BOOK, WAITING TO BE WRITTEN. IT CAN ONLY BE A HAPPY NEW YEAR IF WE WORK TOGETHER ACROSS ALL DIVIDES AND TAKE BACK CONTROL OF OUR COUNTRY TO STOP THE DAILY TERROR INFLICTED ON OUR CITIZENS. I DECLARE TODAY THAT IT IS THE MISSION OF THE UNITED NATIONAL CONGRESS TO DO WHAT THIS CURRENT GOVERNMENT IS EITHER UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO DO – RESTORE LAW, ORDER AND PROSPERITY TO OUR GREAT NATION. A SAFE AND PROSPEROUS TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO MUST BE THE STATE’S FOUNDATION FOR ITS CITIZENS.
In preparation for the possibilities of the New Year, we often reflect on the past year, its triumphs and tragedies, its promise and dismay, and its laughter and lessons.
We acknowledge the challenges that have beset our beloved nation with heavy hearts. The record number of murders, home invasions, robberies, and missing persons, a declining economy, increased costs of living, impending property taxes, and the looming increase in electricity and water rates have undoubtedly cast a shadow over our collective well-being.
The United States has expanded its dire travel warnings about Trinidad and Tobago, and other countries will likely follow soon. Once-safe communities, such as St Augustine, St Joseph, Chaguanas, Trincity, and Tunapuna, are highlighted as danger zones internationally.
There are no government assurances of ending illegal drug and gun imports and gang warfare by sealing off the porous borders, improving surveillance, and boosting detection rates. There are no efforts at improving the inefficient criminal justice system through radical and urgent reform. Additionally, the Prime Minister continues to hide from engaging the Opposition and all stakeholders in anticrime talks but prefers to continue with his public relations game in which every citizen loses.
While the country is being battered with violent lawlessness, the crucial National Security portfolio remains in the hands of an abominably inept Minister.
At the dawn of 2024, there is no government assurance about a fresh resolve to stamp out criminality and secure our besieged nation. Citizens have been told to fend for themselves! There are no comprehensive plans to address the many broken sectors in our country, including plans to grow the economy and create jobs.
I genuinely wish every citizen a happy new year, but I know there can be no happy one unless strategic interventions are urgently implemented to stem the criminality in our land and to fix the broken sectors. We must work today to improve safety, security, and prosperity for all for there to be happiness in the new year and to prevent tomorrow’s generation from inheriting a criminal-run failed state where the killing of men, women, and children becomes normalized to the point of no return.
UNC VISION AND MISSION
I declare today that it is the mission of the United National Congress to do what this current government is either unwilling or unable to do – restore law, order, and prosperity to our great nation. A safe and prosperous Trinidad and Tobago must be the State’s foundation for its citizens.
The UNC has been presenting concrete plans and policy alternatives to address our nation’s pressing challenges. We are committed to crafting solutions that prioritize the well-being of all citizens, irrespective of background or circumstance. A few examples are:
· We will pass “Stand Your Ground” legislation to give you the right to use lethal force within the sanctity of your homes to protect yourself and your loved ones from criminals.
· We will ensure that law-abiding citizens can easily access legal firearms to protect themselves, their families, and their property.
· We will implement judicial and prison reforms, as well as retool the TTPS with modern training, equipment, and a competent leadership team to eliminate the criminals.
· We will bring back Community Comfort Patrols throughout Trinidad and Tobago to ensure you do not have to pay for private security patrols in your neighbourhood.
· We will widen the suite of funding for educational and training programs, including the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) Programme, to once again ensure that every young citizen has access to an education for a better life away from crime.
· We will eliminate the property tax and other nuisance taxes along with an extensive deregulation of the bureaucracy that hinders our business sector.
· We will eliminate unfair and excessively high fines that this Government has implemented to terrorize the population.
· We will work with the business community and use the full power of the state apparatus to end the scourge of extortion and robberies.
· We will have an all of Government approach that accepts that addressing crime extends beyond policing and legislative actions only. The comprehensive governance components in addressing crime must also encompass social welfare, healthcare, business development, employment opportunities, and education. These main sectors collectively influence the crime rate, and a holistic strategy with structured operational policies, guided and managed by competent personnel, is essential to achieve progress effectively.
Effective crime-fighting strategies, we intend to host public anti-crime consultations in the new year, to which all stakeholders will be invited to attend.
Given that this government’s negligence has plunged our nation into the abyss, we must now unite to fight the wave of terror sweeping our nation regardless of what side of the political divide we as citizens may have stood in the past.
I wish every citizen a safe, secure, and prosperous 2024. Together, we can make that a reality. Let’s take control of T&T together.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
31st December 2023