Last update: 04-Dec-2013 12:33 pm
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Kamla: I’m not a coward
Insisting she is not a coward and not afraid of the voice of the people, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday announced that local government elections will be held on October 21. At the same time, she also declared that a new ground-breaking system will be introduced in time for the elections—proportional representation. Persad-Bissessar made the announcements to the media during yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
“Since the expiration of the life of the local government (on July 26), there has been widespread public speculation that this Government would seek to postpone local government elections. “Today, I confirm to you that although it remains open to the Government to pass legislation to postpone any elections, the local government elections shall not be postponed.”
Persad-Bissessar said in addition to councillors who had requested a postponement of the local government elections for reform purposes, several Cabinet ministers also had concerns about calling them this year. Asked to elaborate, she said: “I do not want to disclose that. But we agreed to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.”
The PM said she is on record as having condemned the former People’s National Movement (PNM) regime for suppressing the voice of the people by postponing local government elections for four consecutive years between 2006 and 2010. She said the PNM had also postponed local government elections on three occasions between 1962 and 1968 and 1974 and 1977.
Noting that the right to vote must never be taken for granted, Persad-Bissessar said the postponement of any election which is constitutionally due must only be countenanced in the most exceptional and extreme circumstances, such as war and famine. Recalling the People’s Partnership’s election manifesto promise of people-centred governance, the PM also noted she is a patron of the Local Government Forum of the Commonwealth.
“I am at the forefront of the international movement for the reform and strengthening of local government to give greater power to the people,” she said. “I will not follow the precedent set by some of our predecessors and use the burning issue of local government reform as an excuse to avoid facing the electorate. “I am not a coward. I am not afraid of the voice of the people. On the contrary, I draw my political strength and inspiration from it.”
Asked about the PP’s readiness for the local government elections, the PM said the Government is engaged in an ongoing process of looking at candidates. She said they have enough time to prepare for the October 21 elections. Asked if her proposed reshuffle of the Cabinet was also discussed at yesterday’s meeting, the PM said it was not. “And you can appreciate why,” she said.
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