Today will begin the first session of the twelfth Parliament of T&T, as the country’s Legislature resumes after the August 10th general elections.
It will be an opportunity for the returning Members of Parliament and new ones to work together to make laws for the good governance of T&T and provide oversight of the Executive.
Since the beginning of the Republican Parliament, T&T has been through many challenging and good times. We had the great recession of the 1980s-1990s that lasted well over decade. The Parliament met days after there was an attempt to overthrow the legitimately elected government in 1990.
These have all been important junctures in the history of the country but few can argue that this twelfth session and how those entrusted to represent the people’s interest behave, will have a profound impact on the country for many years to come.
T&T is facing one of its most difficult times since independence with its economy fragile, although there are still some levers available to the government. It has lost considerable control of the COVID-19 pandemic; the energy sector – for decades the country’s economic savour – is in trouble, technology is rapidly changing the world and T&T, particularly the government, has been a late adopter; crime remains out of control and growing inequality and inequity in the society threatens the country’s stability and harmony.
It is in this context that the Members of Parliament must put the joys and disappointments of the recent General Election behind them and put country first, in the way they approach the making of laws.
The country cannot be held hostage by the Opposition UNC on any bill that will be in the best interest of citizens and the ruling PNM cannot come to the Parliament with bad law and adopt a position that it has a mandate and the Opposition’s role is to rubber-stamp legislation.
What the country needs is both major political parties working together to solve the challenging problems.
A good start will be the legislation expected to be debated today mandating everyone to wear a mask in public. Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar has said in principle the UNC is not against it but the devil is in the details. She is right that the details matter but what must happen is a spirit of compromise and a way found to pass what the entire country knows to be crucial legislation.
Similarly, legislation, including the Bail Amendment Bill and the bill for the establishment of the Revenue Authority must also be worked on to ensure the country benefits from their passage.
We must also find a way to deal with the growing underclass in our urban centers and the homeless who roam the cities and towns.
Gamesmanship and postering by both sides must end because it is clear even from the recent election that the electorate is not enamoured by such behaviour.
There is much work to be done.