Kamla Persad-Bissessar

United National Congress leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday warned the incoming People’s National Movement Government to prepare itself to battle an Opposition with a fresh approach.

And one of the UNC’s first salvos in this new term is concern about correspondence relating to Trinidad and Tobago’s request for independent election observers.

Persad-Bissesssar signalled her intention yesterday in an address after the Elections and Boundaries Commission ratified the PNM’s 22-19 General Election victory after completing recounts requested by the UNC in the five marginals.

Persad-Bissessar’s concern was in direct reference to a letter issued by the Commonwealth Secretary-General to Government on the issue of observers. The letter appeared to contradict statements by the Government on the Commonwealth’s ability to send an observer team.

Persad-Bissessar stated, “We remain deeply concerned, especially since the release of correspondence relating to T&T’s request for independent election observers raise more questions than answers.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday fumed at Persad-Bissessar’s statements, again saying the UNC was misleading the public in this matter.

While finally conceding defeat, Persad-Bissessar said she will stay on as UNC leader until the party has internal elections.

But she warned the PNM, “… The Government shall need to prepare itself for a fresh approach to Opposition politics. I pledge to lead one of the strongest opposition forces in our political history with safety, accountability, transparency and equality as our priorities. We will support when we genuinely believe it is good for all of our people and we will fight arrogance and injustice with the same determination.

“It is often said that a strong government needs an even stronger opposition. This is certainly true for our beloved country as we face unprecedented challenges that call for a constructive partnership between government and opposition where the public interest is of paramount concern.”

On the election result, Persad-Bissessar added, “An additional five per cent swing in only two seats could easily have seen a different outcome. This razor-thin margin reinforces that whoever won needs to approach governance with humility rather than arrogance and partisanship. The narrow margin reinforces the divisions within our country and the challenges to moving forward. We cannot continue like this. Our 1.3 million countrymen and women deserve better.”

She said election results had shown that once again, T&T is deeply divided on which party should be running its affairs. “These divisions are being reflected in a lot of the bitter chatter on social media and across the country. This cannot be good for our country,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Persad-Bissessar said the country had drifted far away from the 2010 ideals of unity but said, “I’m not prepared to fan the flames of hate. We recognise we operate in an adversarial political system but now is the time for reconciliation and healing among our people.

“The election is over and now, it is back to the harsh reality of working to put bread on the table and being our brother’s keeper. I call on all political parties and interests to resolve immediately that we will not let our beloved nation’s long-standing tradition of harmony, tolerance and unity be jeopardised by expressions of hate, divisiveness and fear-mongering. We must respect each other’s political choices without invoking and inciting race to divide our people.”