Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she was not impressed by President Christine Kangaloo’s maiden address to both Houses, accusing her of missing a golden opportunity to call for transparency and accountability in the government.
Speaking with members of the media from the steps leading to the Parliament chamber, Persad-Bissessar was flanked by Roodal Moonilal, Jearlean John, Barry Padarath and several other United National Congress (UNC) officials.
She suggested that Kangaloo, who was once the PNM’s Point-a-Pierre MP and former Senate President, went soft on the government.
“It sounded like an apology for the failure of the sitting government to service and she spoke of crime... It is number one on our agenda at this time. I say if you’re dead, you can enjoy nothing—education, jobs, all the things that are needed in the country. So, I think her excellency missed a very golden opportunity to talk about transparency, to talk about accountability,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar also took issue with the five points the president highlighted in her speech when she called for both sides of the political divide to collaborate on crime, promote culture and arts, make life more inclusive for people with disabilities, address concerns surrounding artificial intelligence, and create a public bills committee to improve the passage of legislation.
“She was president of the senate for years. Not one of those things did she try to implement. Instead, operating on a different level, not for collaboration but shutting down speakers, no transparency, no accountability!” she said.
While Minister of Finance Colm Imbert has been mum about the budget date, Persad-Bissessar believes it could be read as early as October 2. She does not think parliament will be reconvened before then. However, with a suspected date in mind, the opposition has begun to prepare.
“My team, we are all in prep for the upcoming budget. We have been shoring up our materials, our responses for that,” she said.
Meanwhile, she defended the UNC from the government’s critique that it will likely withhold support for its efforts to address pertinent national issues. Persad-Bissessar said the UNC was not obstructionist and had called for collaboration with the PNM in the past, adding that she was ready and willing to do so now.
“We have called for collaboration on every front. We have met the government on several occasions, they refuse to meet and then they say we are obstructionists. We are willing and able at any time to meet with government for a collaborative effort to bring back greater security and safety in the country,” she said.
As for a potential cabinet reshuffle, Persad-Bissessar said the National Security Minister should be the first to be reassigned.
“I think Hinds should go but I think all of them should go and when they go into retreat, don’t come back! They should all go. Whatever retreat is taking place, I can’t see it helping them. We’re reshuffling a pack of jokers,” she said.
When asked by members of the media about the president’s suggestion that the steelpan be officially declared the national instrument, Persad-Bissessar said it was a great idea but tassa should be added to the fray as well.
She ended with a welcome to the four new independent senators whom she hoped would maintain their integrity during this parliamentary term.—Dareece Polo