Three days after President Christine Kangaloo called for unity amongst parliamentarians to deal with crime, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has signalled that he will make the first move to initiate such discussions with the Opposition.
During a post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, yesterday, Rowley said he plans to write to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to invite her to sessions to present her plans to tackle the country’s high crime rate.
In her maiden speech to both houses during the Ceremonial Opening of the Fourth sitting of the 12th Session of the Parliament on Monday, Kangaloo urged the parliamentarians to put aside partisan politics to resolve the crime woes afflicting the country.
“The urgency is obvious. The pain and the suffering are unbearable. These alone should drive parliamentarians to put aside their party rivalries, join hands across the aisle, and collaborate on how to stem crime and criminal conduct,” Kangaloo said.
Following Kangaloo’s speech, Persad-Bissessar had said the United National Congress was ready and willing to cooperate with the Government.
Addressing Persad-Bissessar’s overture yesterday, Rowley said, “Having heard the Opposition Leader speak on Monday, I intend to write to her and to ask her to supply or to receive personnel from the Government on the issue of crime and the Government will receive from her side on the issue of crime and let us see what common ground exist that the parliament can deal with.”
However, while he signalled he was ready for talks, Rowley said trying to unite with the Opposition is not something new, noting he made multiple attempts to do so in 2015.
“As Opposition leader, I didn’t wait for people to tell me to cooperate with the government. I saw that as a responsibility to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. So, as Opposition leader, I voted for the budget that the government brought to the parliament in 2015. It is the only time that the Opposition voted for the government’s budget because I saw it as a new beginning,” he said.
He said he then went a step further when the roles were switched, and he became Prime Minister, seeking to once again work together.
Rowley said he reached out to Persad-Bissessar thinking they would have been able to meet, but things did not go as planned.
“When I became Prime Minister, I reached out to the Opposition leader thinking I could have an arrangement where we’ll meet in mutual respect. I don’t have to tell you that one of the problems that we have in the country is a total lack of and loss of respect. And, as a result of that, after the way that first meeting went, it was made quite clear that future meetings were not on, and they served no useful purpose.”
Despite this, he said, the Government was quite willing to use all the provisions within the parliament for both sides of the bench to meet once again.
He said his Government was not one that had to “undermine”, “pull down”, “bad talk” or not cooperate in order to win an election.
He added too, that no one could point a finger in his direction, indicating his Government’s unwillingness to collaborate if the opportunity presented itself.
Contacted hours after the PM’s statement yesterday, UNC PRO Kirk Meighoo said the UNC had no comment to make at that time.