Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 31st 2013 Contents A8
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, August 31, 2013
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
has announced plans for what she called
The National Conversation, a forum that
will allow Trinidadians and Tobagonians
to communicate their opinions directly to
the Government via a Web site and a tele-
In her speech ahead of Independence Day
celebrations today, the Prime Minister said
she will encourage community leaders from
religious groups, NGOs, opposition groups
and other stakeholders to join in the National
She said the initiative was a response to
the many people in society who were waiting
to see further evidence that their faith in
the Government they elected three years
ago was not misplaced. It will be, she said,
a specific and measurable expansion of the
Government s stewardship of the people.
The PP s "commitment to govern through
consultation," had brought about "sweeping
changes in the governance of this country,"
"I will ensure every opinion is garnered,
each voice heard, and that the Government
you elected acts in accordance with the will
of the people."
Her speech pushed a message of unity,
collectivism and dialogue.
"When we speak to each other across the
length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago
a better understanding will emerge among
She acknowledged that although she had
been listening to the voices of the people
throughout her tenure, her Government s
plans and vision were not adequately reach-
ing the population.
She cited recent meetings with opposition
leader Dr Keith Rowley as evidence of her
commitment to unite the country politically
and draw upon all of the country s political
resources and minds to solve problems such
"It is encouraging," she said, "to see our
Parliamentary colleagues joining with us,
putting aside partisan politics in the interests
of Trinidad and Tobago, as we too had done
when we were in opposition."
On the issue of crime, she said there
would be no excuses from her Government
but rather "immediate positive results."
After consulting security forces and
affected communities for their opinions
on tackling disorder and violent crime, she
gave this guarantee: "I will wage a war
unlike any seen before and at the end of
the day, all of us, you and me, Trinidad
and Tobago, will win."
The PM described T&T s economic posi-
tion as robust and stable, and gave par-
ticular commendation to the Ministers of
Finance who have served under her, Win-
ston Dookeran and Larry Howai, whose
"prudent economic planning and sagacity"
had helped the country withstand much
of the effects of the global economic reces-
After having pushed the message of unity
and collaborative effort, there was a brief,
direct nod to the citizen as individual.
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi: "We must
be the change we wish to see," she said,
"I am certain that each of us has a vision
and a dream for our country...Citizenship
is more than a legal designation. It is also
a cultural ideal infused with a moral obli-
gation. This is our shared responsibility."
President Anthony Carmona has asked the
population to consider what use the country
has made of its 51 years of independence.
Echoing the words of the country s first Prime
Minister Dr Eric Williams, who asked in a radio
speech, "What use will you make of your inde-
pendence?" Carmona also posed several questions
to the nation in his first official Independence
"In what ways are we better off now than we
were before we became self-governing? Notwith-
standing the many achievements of our citizens,
however, who are we as a nation? Have we, as
a nation, been true to our watchwords of dis-
cipline, production and tolerance? What char-
acterises us as a people? What do we stand for?
What do we bring to the Commonwealth of
Few, he said, would argue that the country has
produced outstanding individuals who have dis-
tinguished themselves, both in T&T and abroad.
Carmona said the country s colonial master is
no longer a hindrance to its growth and devel-
opment and that its main hindrance may be itself.
"The central issue of 51 years ago, the pursuit
of our nation s independence, is not the central
issue today," he said.
"After half a century of self-governance, the
colonial master is no longer a formidable hin-
drance to our growth and development as a people
and as a nation. Our main hindrance may well
"The self-determination which we won in 1962
must now be coupled with a recognition of the
importance of every citizen to the fulfilment of
our nation s destiny and to its continued growth
He recalled the feelings of "pride, joy, optimism
and atmosphere of excitement," when he was
nine years old, of the week-long celebrations to
mark the country s gaining its independence.
The nation and individuals, he said, must
accept the challenge to affirm the national pledge,
written by Marjorie Padmore.
He said the lines of the pledge, which calls for
countrymen to work together, despite creed and
race, for the greater happiness, honour and glory
of the country, should be an "imperative and
standard" which governs the lives of citizens of
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