?With the official swearing-in of the Prime Minister and her Cabinet this afternoon, the five-year term of the new Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration gets underway after Monday's resounding victory at the polls.
The People's Partnership garnered 29 seats in Parliament to the 12 won by the opposition People's National Movement. The seat count from Monday's general election gives the new government a clear majority with which to implement most aspects of its legislative agenda. The People's Partnership also has a resounding mandate to rule–having won the confidence of 432,026 voters, according to preliminary results released by the Elections and Boundaries Commission. This constitutes 60 per cent of the 722,322 people who voted on Monday, compared with the 39.5 per cent of voters (285,354 people) who cast their ballots for the PNM. With 70 per cent of the seats in Parliament, 60 per cent of the popular vote and significant goodwill from the country's main interest groups, there can be little doubt that Mrs Persad-Bissessar and her team have been granted the authority to refashion the nation as they see fit. What is gratifying is that the People's Partnership has pledged to be guided by the wishes of the people in determining the way forward.
Among the first priorities of the new administration should be to uncover the truth in two areas: Whether any state funds or resources were used in the construction of the controversial church at the Heights of Guanapo and whether former executive chairman of Udecott, Calder Hart, and other officials of the state-owned special purpose company, have any criminal charges to answer with regard to the construction of the Legal Affairs Tower in Port-of-Spain and the stadium in Tarouba. Given the statements made by People's Partnership representatives on the election campaign, the public is entitled to expect that both of these matters will be subjected to full and transparent investigations. The public expectation that these matters will be subjected to thorough investigations must be strengthened by the fact that it was two members of the Congress of the People–one of the constituent members of the People's Partnership–who uncovered an alleged family link between a foreign construction company and a local official. The public is also entitled to expect that these matters will be brought to closure without undue hesitation and, if there is wrongdoing that the offending parties will be called upon to account.
The new government must demonstrate by its actions, as opposed to just its rhetoric, that it is prepared to do its utmost to uphold law and order and promote the highest standards of good governance and probity, especially as it relates to public funds and public resources. It is also important that the new administration set a tone that is respectful of letting due process take its course. In other words, there should be no witch-hunt of people suspected or known to have allegiances to interests or organisations that do not coincide with those of the People's Partnership. There have been instances in the past where governments have attempted to politicise unduly allegations of corruption and this must be avoided at all costs. The Government must also move quickly to implement all 91 of the recommendations of the Uff Commission of Enquiry. The previous administration spent time and money on a long and expensive investigation of the procurement practices of state-owned special purpose companies. The new administration must ensure that this country gets full value for money by ensuring that state construction projects in future deliver value for money. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar would have achieved a great deal if she can reform the process of public procurement while ensuring that the appropriate penalties are in place for those who fall short of thestandard of behaviour expected of public officials.