Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 22nd 2013 Contents A6
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt December 22, 2013
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar, the central figure in
today s political landscape, has
admitted that her job is one of
the hardest in the country.
As Prime Minister, Persad-
Bissessar is expected to be on call
and available 24/7, she is open to
criticism and praise in equal meas-
ure and is often judged on her
wardrobe and appearance rather
than her political savvy.
Under constant scrutiny and
brutal Facebook attacks, Persad-
Bissessar has lived through plat-
form slips, misfires and attacks on
her policies, her decisions and her
ability to lead. As the first female
Prime Minister of T&T, Persad-
Bissessar is without a set template
to guide her actions and seems to
some to be carving her own path,
sometimes in unorthodox ways,
in an industry often led and dom-
inated by men. In an interview
with the Sunday Guardian, Per-
sad-Bissessar talks politics, her
family and running the country.
She has led her party through
four losses at the polls, yet remains
popular among the electorate. For
her ability to weather the political
storms, the Sunday Guardian has
dubbed her the Political Survivor
A fulfilling job
Her role as Prime Minister
comes with "great responsibility"
and an ability to change course
with a moment s notice.
"No matter how much you plan
in advance, something comes up
that you need to address," she said.
"So yes, the job is hard. For me,
there s a balance between feeling
the pressure of trying to make
things better for every citizen, and
taking satisfaction from what you
The job, she said, is also "hugely
"Every day, you see how peo-
ple s lives can be improved, prob-
lems sorted out, plans coming
together. For example, every year
for as long as I can remember,
we ve had too many schools not
reopening on time because the
vacation building works aren t fin-
ished on time.
"We need our children to know
how important education is. And
if we want them to work hard,
then the Government has to work
hard too. I know not every school
opened as it should have.
"So next time, we need to do
'The system militates against
Again, being in a male-domi-
nated industry, Persad-Bissessar
has often heard that she is either
being led or influenced by the men
that make up her Cabinet. This
she continues to deny.
"We have many highly success-
ful women in our country, but the
system itself militates against
women rising. Too often, women
give up and don t pursue their
dreams. I would like to see more
women get involved in politics at
the highest levels, so that the
country would see us for what we
are and not pay attention to the
shoes we wear and the dress we
choose. We don t notice that in
"I am my own woman...and
was, long before I became PM.
Attending to my family s needs
only made me stronger as a leader
because if you know how to run
a home and ensure each person s
particular need is met, it s the best
leadership training you can have."
Dress code red?
Persad-Bissessar said while she
could accept that her gender would
be a subject of interest, it seemed
slightly superficial that what she
wore would trump what she said.
"I am the first woman to hold
this post in this country. Naturally,
my gender was a point of interest,
but too often this can be super-
ficial. Every PM before me attend-
ed all manner of functions, but
how often did you see a report on
what they were wearing and how
much the suit cost?" she asked.
"What concerns me more is not
these distractions, but the sug-
gestions that women cannot do
this job, or hold any leadership
position. This is plain sexism. This
is what is happening with those
claims about the cabal. It s based
on the prejudice that as a woman
I am too weak to govern in my
own right, and that women have
to have men pulling the strings.
Well, that s not true. I listen to a
wide range of opinions---you have
to, in this position---but I take my
'You can't be thin-skinned'
"Politics has its ups and downs,
and if you are thin-skinned and
get discouraged every time some-
one is critical of you, then you
won t succeed. From the start, I
knew that I would never be able
to please everyone with everything
I do. Perhaps this was always going
to be harder for our Government
given the huge expectations people
had back in 2010. But my focus
has remained the same---to do
something to elevate people and
make a better country."
As a politician, Persad-Bissessar
said she was forced to grow a thick
skin and face criticism after mak-
ing difficult decisions.
"Not every decision I have made
has been popular, but I have always
wanted the best for our country.
And I ve tried to bring a new style
of leadership by being ready to
admit when things go wrong. Not
shift the blame, but pledge myself
to putting it right.
"You can t run away from crit-
icism. This year, some people were
saying I should postpone the local
elections. But I took an oath to
uphold the Constitution, and that
PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar
POLITICAL SURVIVOR OF THE YEAR
includes protecting people s democratic
rights. No government can take upon
itself to withhold the people s right to
vote and to choose. And though we
had some electoral losses, we gained
something of immense value. We heard
loud and clear from the people about
what they wanted from my Govern-
ment," she said.
God, her husband, help her through
Continues on Page A7
Links Archive December 21st 2013 December 23rd 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page