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PM’s New Year’s Day message: Crime, child abuse top of the agenda
An aggressive war on crime, especially crime against children, more jobs, further reduction in food prices, new and upgraded hospitals. These are some of the goodies Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is promising to bring for 2014, dubbed an election year. The general election is scheduled be held in May 2015. The Government’s pace of delivery would be accelerated this year, she said. The PM’s promises are contained in her New Year’s Day message to the nation, which had shades of an election manifesto.
High on the Government’s agenda was a better plan to protect children, who are increasingly becoming the victims of horrific crimes. “My Government will put all of its weight behind ensuring our nation’s children are safe and I ask that you, the citizens, also reaffirm your responsibility for each and every child of T&T,” Persad-Bissessar said.
The PM’s new promise comes after the disruption of Parliament last December by former government minister and child rights activist Verna St Rose-Greaves, who chastised her for failing to deliver on the promise to protect children. Persad-Bissessar said the past year “jolted us to our core,” when the reality of how unsafe some of our nation’s children are, even within their own families, hit home.
She said Cabinet has received a comprehensive report from the Child Protection Task Force, which she established following the tragic death of young Keyana Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch, six, was killed, raped and stuffed in a barrel filled with clothes at her Maloney Gardens, D’Abadie, home in November last year. Persad-Bissessar said Cabinet had accepted the recommendations of the Task Force and would ensure it gets all that was necessary for the Children’s Authority to become fully functional.
The PM said the nation’s children are at great risk not only at home and in their familiar environment but at other places such as foster homes and child welfare institutions. She challenged everyone to put aside partisan interests and rise up against child abuse and asked all political leaders to join the Government in fighting violence against children and crime in general.
The Government has already started an ambitious crime-fighting programme and will continue to roll out more measures in 2014, she said. Persad-Bissessar said 2014 will be an exciting one as the Government accelerates its pace of delivery. “The new year will see the culmination of many months and years of careful planning.”
She said greater emphasis would be placed on citizen participation in the governance process and, starting this month, the Government would launch the largest co-ordinated national consultation in the nation’s history, the National Conversation. “The National Conversation will be my Government’s continuing progress report to you...And it will be a two-way conversation that gives you, the people, the opportunity to direct us on where and how we must now proceed,” the PM said.
“It will be a review of our priorities, an opportunity for you to see how we have aligned our delivery to your needs, and for you to tell us what you want us to reconsider. “You must tell us where to get more aggressive and where to expand what we are doing. We work for you. And together we must build this country.” She announced good news for the health sector, too, with a major redevelopment of the Port-of-Spain hospital coming and more beds for patients.
And, following on the 20 per cent reduction on the price of flour, rice and oil over the Christmas, the Government would aggressively continue to pursue its drive to reduce food inflation, the PM said.
More jobs for young people
“This year will see advances in the On the Job Training Programme which will deliver opportunities more relevant to your interests and training, better compensation and broader opportunities for you to learn directly from senior professionals in your fields,” she said. “My Government has also put an unprecedented level of energy in driving forward our economic diversification programme and here, as well, the nation will see an expansion in the number, quality and diversity of employment opportunities.”
The PM also promised that, in 2014, the Government would have a new Constitution for the nation. “Some of the changes we propose include the right to recall a Member of Parliament, fixed dates for national and local elections and term limits for Prime Ministers,” she said.
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