Sunday, 2 December 2012

Full Text of Prime Minister's Speech At Rienzi Complex On Saturday December 1st, 2012


Following is the speech delivered by Prime Minister and UNC Political Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar at yesterday’s UNC Congress at Rienzi Complex, Couva

Greetings! As I begin I ask you to look around you. Look at those seated next to you. These are your fellow delegates of our great party the UNC. Today, as I look upon the United National Congress I must say that I am immensely proud of you. I am proud to lead the most Democratic Party in Trinidad and Tobago. Look around... we represent every creed, race, religious persuasion, gender, age group, persons from every geographical space of this our blessed nation, from every walk of life and from every income group. The United National Congress that you belong to is a rainbow party of every aspect of our Nation.

Unity in diversity

We are one. And it is that same philosophy, that same diversity that we have manifested and multiplied in the Government of the People’s Partnership.

This afternoon’s Congress is taking place at a most significant juncture in the history of our UNC Party, the Partnership and our Government. It is a few days past thirty months since we were voted into office by an overwhelming majority and a constitutional majority in the Parliament. Such was and continues to be the confidence of the people in the ability of the People’s Partnership to govern this country in a way which would ensure prosperity and security for all.

Throughout the last 30 months we have been tested, we have been vilified, we have been scrutinised, we have been questioned and we have been also praised.

We have persevered and, this afternoon we are here to critically examine how we have progressed, as well as to examine what we need to do better over the next 30 months of governing this country on your behalf.

We are here not as Ministers and a Prime Minister to tell you how well we have done, but to give you the party, from whence our mandate has been derived, the opportunity to record your satisfaction or dissatisfaction with how we have managed and exercised that mandate on your behalf.

Let us never lose sight of the importance of the party in getting us into government and keeping us in government. Lest it be forgotten, let us remember that you are amongst the ones who chose us and we now govern on your behalf. I recognised very early that this is the simple truth, that we exercise power on your behalf. For this reason I have always maintained that service is the lifeblood of my Government and that everything else flows from service and is nourished by service.

On balance, I wish to say that we have done extremely well as a party and as a Government. We came into Office as a Partnership. The people of our country know through our experiences of the past, that whenever there is a united movement against the PNM, the PNM can never win an election. This was proven in 1983 and 2010 at the local government elections, and was proven in 1986 and again in 1995 and overwhelmingly in 2010 at general elections. Let us not forget our political history.

Let me say what you have been the first to say that:

“We are one — We sink or float together.

Let us not be deluded. This is verily the truth.”

For those within the Partnership who think otherwise and would wish to go it on their own, let me also confirm that the electorate will chew and spit out such individuals or political groups who are seen to be betraying the trust that has been placed in the Partnership.

This is why sometimes, contrary to your own desires as members of the UNC, I have borne the pains of insults, the stress of threats and sometimes what amounts to blackmail of my leadership.

It has not been easy to be leader of the Partnership, but with the strength I derive from you, with the promise I have made to make life better for you and your children, with the knowledge of how much faith and trust you have in me, with the vision for a secure and prosperous future for all, I persevere for you and for my country, our country.

I will never abandon the dream of 2010 and will never abandon you my political family. I belong to you and to this nation while I hold this position of your Political Leader and your Prime Minister. I am in command as your PM. However, I have demonstrated that I have always been open to the opinion of others. I ask for inputs and suggestions. I lead open discussions in the Cabinet and in our parliamentary caucus. I build bonds in the partnership at all levels. I stress in my own interactions, courtesy and mutual respect.

I defuse the anger of our parliamentarians and Partnership members. I share the tent with all. “We are One. We float together or we shall sink together!” This is my covenant. This is why the Partnership has survived against the wishes of others to see it fall. This is why it has grown in strength and this is why the several attempts to derail the focus of our Government have failed and will continue to fail.

I have grown in my personal awareness of what you wish us to be as a Government. With this awareness has come responsibility — the responsibility to act. It is action in the people’s interest which will define the next thirty months of our governance.

At this mid-term juncture, we must recall the elements of the platform which brought us to power and which remain the basis of the contract between the citizens and us, whether they voted for us or not, for such is the democracy within which we function.

1. We were voted into office on the promise of ensuring wider participation in political decision making.

You wanted a citizen’s democracy and I am of the firm view that we are progressing in this regard. My Government has virtually encouraged citizens to express their views on all matters and to do so without fear. Show me one person who has been sacked from his/her position for criticising the Government. This attitude of protecting the right to freedom of speech and association on our part is what has placed the Government under the microscope.We do not believe that criticism of the Government is a vote against the Government. We do not believe that it represents a dislike of the Government. Dislike and disagreement are two different things.

We believe that when our citizens and even our supporters criticise us, it is because they are expressing a desire for us to be a better government and a desire for them to be a part of the governance of the country. We have encouraged this, perhaps, sometimes, to our own detriment, but this is part of the change you voted for. This is why I emphasise the need to listen and then to lead. We understand that government today and governments in the future will come under great scrutiny. We understand the new environment in which we are called upon to govern. We accept it and, this is when we open communications and conversations with the citizenry. This is also the change you voted for! As always, I ask only for truth and for fairness in reporting. Criticisms of this Government when you examine it closely have been largely supportive. This is why after 30 months the Government and your PM continue to have a favourable rating from the citizenry.

2. The second element of the platform which you used to vote us into government, is the belief that we can provide greater security to the nation in three important areas. viz Personal and Community (Public) Security, Food Security, and National Security.

Crime has and continues to be at the top of the agenda of my Government. Let me forewarn.

Whilst my Government is engaging in soft strategies to wean people away from a life of crime, I say to the criminal elements, do not mistake this for any form of weakness on our part. My Government is also prepared to engage in the hard strategies to deal with hardened criminals.

The legislation to deal with criminals who won’t change is there on the law books, legislation brought to Parliament by my Government and I assure you, it will be applied as is required. Enough is enough. There are too many excuses for deviancy in this society. We must become firm with the criminals and do not romanticise them. The law is for all, and if you break the law, you must pay the price.

3. The third element of the platform on which we were voted into office is your belief in the ability of this Government to close the gap between promises and delivery and to deliver the basic goods and services which you need for a better quality of life.

I have on previous occasions, including last Monday evening in Debe, dealt extensively with our record of delivery and I don’t intend to go into details this afternoon. We have been improving the physical and social infrastructure in the country. We have been attacking poverty, food prices, the cost of transport for the elderly and for school children, continued the GATE and expanded the OJT programme, expanded maternity benefits, raised old age pension, built new schools, rehabilitated recreational facilities in an on-going programme.Wherever and whenever you twist and turn, development work is apace. This is also the change you voted for.

Speaking of change, your PM and the Government are acutely aware of your voices crying out for change. We recognise that you want speed and responsiveness from the public service.

We recognise that you want the courts and the justice system to function so as to deliver speedier justice.We recognise that you want a more responsive health service. We recognise that you want to feel safer as a citizen. We recognise that you want to see value for money spent in the development of the nation. Do not for a moment think that I am oblivious to these essential areas of change.

So many of these matters depend on the transformation of the public service, which is a function of the Ministry of Public Administration, headed by Minister Carolyn Seepersad Bachan, as well as on the Ministry of Legal Affairs, which is headed by Minister PrakashRamadhar, and the Ministry of Justice, headed by Minister Chrystlyn Moore, and the office of the AG, headed by Minister Anand Ramlogan.

Archaic public service systems, unresponsive and slow decision making at the level of service commissions, unsympathetic attitudes to the public, must undergo a revolution in the shortest possible time. Now you understand what I meant in Debe when I said the Government is challenged from within and without.

Above all, you want to witness an administration which adheres to the values of integrity in public life, professionalism and open communications and transparency in the conduct of the business of government. I took the oath of office as PM to govern in the interest of the nation without fear or favour. I will do so!

4. The fourth platform upon which you voted for us has to do with your desire for greater equity in the distribution of national resources and equal opportunities for all.

If you notice, we have come under a barrage of criticisms from the PNM with respect to reducing inequities in terms of geographical areas. Only last week the Opposition severely criticised the Government for developing south of the Caroni. I say no more of that because the comments were filled with undertones and overtones designed to create public mischief and dissonance.

They seem to have conveniently forgotten that the North of Trinidad has been the greatest beneficiary of the oil wealth from the South and that the South has remained underdeveloped. This is also why it is important that nothing must stand in the way of the Highway to Point Fortin.

The highway is about economic opportunities and social transformation as it is about the ease of movement. Let not the highway debate get lost in the side shows and side talk. People in rural communities deserve better just as people in developed communities deserve better whether it is north, south, east or west and across the water in Tobago –— all our citizens deserve better!

5. Finally, the fifth platform upon which you voted us into power has to do with the confidence you have that we can better manage the economy.

All the economic indicators show that we are doing just that and we are improving day by day. And so I come now to discuss what is your responsibility as the UNC.

1. You must be the eyes, ears and voices of your Government.

The Government will be as strong as the party is strong. Getting into Government has been a role you have played well. You have sacrificed and now it is your duty to stay in power. You know the cost of losing power. The PNM will discriminate, will deny, will frustrate you at every turn. What you and citizens of our country are now enjoying under the Partnership Govt which operates on the principles of fairness and equity will be lost.

2. You must expand the party by recruiting new members and forming party groups in every electoral area.

This is part of the preparations for the Local Government elections due in July 2013, seven months away. Councillors and MPs must begin to walk their areas once again in what will be a strategy designed to listen and serve. And speaking of elections, we are just a short time away from the THA elections and then the local government elections in Trinidad — Be prepared for every manner of unfounded attacks on members of the Government.

3. You must stand ready to defend your leaders, your party and the policies of your Government.

Your party will always be under attack. You must rise to the challenge and fearlessly go forward with confidence in your Government and its ability to create a prosperous nation. Get the facts and become instruments for disseminating these facts.You must believe in the power of the Partnership and preserve it.

Do not succumb to the propaganda which will increase over the next few months with two elections in the air. The campaign of 2010 has never been over. You must give us feedback on what the ground is saying, you are our eyes and ears.

Over the next thirty months it is my intention to do the following:

Improve personal and community security by dealing with crime

Deliver better quality services particularly in the area of health care

Create the conditions for greater food security as a nation and further reduce food prices

Improve the road infrastructure including highways and local roads

Improve drainage across the nation

Deliver better recreational facilities

Increase access to early childhood and tertiary education

Bring the youth population more directly into the decision making process.

Develop the economic conditions for more sustainable jobs.

Reform the Public Service to become more citizen centric and responsive

Improve the water supplies throughout the nation

Reduce poverty, deal effectively with domestic violence and child abuse

While these goals are not exhaustive, it means that the Ministers concerned are today being put on notice to speed up what they are doing but not at the cost of quality. It means that Ministers, while they make policy as a Cabinet, must also take on the role of managers and get the job done. Roll up your sleeves, put on your boots, get your umbrellas and go into the field.

Conclusion

Your party has done well. You are now in government. This is what you laboured for. Protect it. Confront our detractors with the facts of our performance. Go forth bravely.You know there is a saying that goes like this. In the confrontation between the rock and the stream, the stream always wins, not through strength but by perseverance. Look at your party today. For over 24 years we persevered and we won. There is no quick fix in politics.There is hard work. Winning comes from being a team that is focussed on the task, a team that will not be distracted from its goal.

Be that team because you know .....We are one

I thank you!



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