Kamla Persad-Bissessar is sworn in by President George Maxwell
Richards as the first female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
Swearing-in of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar: more pictures:
Speech delivered by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at her Oath Taking ceremony at Knowsley Building, Port of Spain
May 26th, 2010
My fellow citizens…it gives me great pleasure to address you for the very first time as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
This has been quite a journey for me. It is the summary of a life in public office that spans some 25 years but one which most people will long remember for its past five months. As you all know, I was elected on February 24th of this year as Political Leader of the UNC, and on March 24th became Leader of the Opposition and now I humbly received the honour to have been elected Prime Minister on May 24th 2010.
But that as far as I will indulge myself in personalising the sequence of events, of far greater importance is enormous responsibility I now bear along with the leadership of the People’s Partnership and our administration to address the urgent social issues at hand and move the nation forward.
Change has indeed come.
The time has arrived to open a new chapter in our nation’s history.
It’s time for all of us to stand together side by side.
Trinidad alongside Tobago.
Members and supporters of all political persuasions, citizens all, arm in arm.
Today we start the work of transforming the hope and promise of change into the reality of change.
And while we leave the euphoria and the emotion of the election behind us, what we do not stray from is the unity the election has forged.
This morning we leave the labels behind and we move forward as one nation – all committed to the same goal – a safer, more prosperous and just Trinidad and Tobago where we all have opportunity and equality.
No more labels. No more prefixes of Afro and Indo nor North and South nor East West corridors. The election is over. It was a means towards an end. Now as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago we are all beneficiaries of the mandate given by the people. This is a victory for all citizens.
Our love of country must now move to the forefront.
And we must recommit ourselves to our nation and to ourselves.
We’re not checking party cards or keeping notes on supporters lists.
The task of rebuilding Trinidad and Tobago will require the participation of everyone and you are all invited to sit at the nation’s table.
Our country has had enough of top down government. We’re going to reverse that order of things.
Throughout the campaign, we were clear about our plans.
And so today…we begin the process of making them government policy.
My fellow citizens, the task ahead of us is challenging and we need all our nation’s talent, all our nation’s wisdom, all our nation’s people on board with us.
It’s time to build a future which we can all share, hold pride in and pass on to our children with confidence.
We have been given an immense opportunity for developing Trinidad and Tobago in ways many might not have thought possible.
The abundant talent of our people in so many spheres is world renowned and we are blessed with rich natural resources. There is no reason why our nation cannot reach heights of development never seen before.
This development must not be measured in the grandeur of tall structures as an architectural manifestation of how far we have come but by the level of human development of our people, by the extent to which the needs of people have been satisfied, by the way things just work well, by the degree of safety and security that our people and the nation enjoy, by the enabling environment created for business to flourish and a renaissance of the arts and culture to emerge, by the mutual respect we hold for each other, by the level of education provided to our young ones and the quality of care given to our little children and by the success we achieve in addressing the very pressing social concerns such as poverty alleviation, domestic violence and child abuse. These are just some of the ways in which our development must be measured.
What happens from this day forward is in our hands. It is up to us.
And so the challenge before us – is to stay as one people.
We must never allow the seeds of separation to regain hold on our soil.
This afternoon, the new chapter we turn is a fresh start for all of us.
Over the next few days I will be making the appointments of members of my cabinet following consultations with the leadership of the People’s Partnership. I promise you it will be comprised of the most competent, committed and qualified individuals.
On composition of the Cabinet my administration will bring Tobago into the core administration of government. And I formally announce this afternoon that there will be an establishment of a Ministry of Tobago Development as we look to bring our sister isle on as equal partners in the development of our twin island state.
Our administration will be addressing social and economic restructuring in the medium term as we look to fast track the changes so urgently required. We will be targeting Ministries to give an account on specific deliverables within a timeframe, as an example, food production. This will be a performance driven formula that measures results and holds those in authority accountable to meeting their goals and objectives.
Under the Office of the Prime Minister, special emphasis will be placed on restoring the dignity and effectiveness of Parliament. In this context, the Red House will remain the Seat of the Parliament.
Parliamentary oversight on key issues has gone into abeyance and in an effort to ensure Parliament is not just a rubber stamp we will be making immediate steps to institute Parliamentary reform under the Office of the Prime Minister.
The People’s Partnership government I lead will be moving towards the delivery of an early budget after candid assessments are conducted on the state of the nation’s finances and economy. The budget provisions based will be developed to give effect to the priorities of the new direction of our new government.
At the conclusion of this afternoon’s ceremony, one of my first acts as Prime Minister will be to meet with the Head of the Office of the Disaster Preparedness and Management along with the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Sandra Marchack, to discuss the current flooding in various parts of the island and the impending increased level of flooding. Arising out of those discussions, a release will be issued on the decisions arrived at and the course of action to be taken.
This situation underlines the need of our new administration to fast track all assessment and begin the process of implementing both short term and long term solutions in so many areas including those such as drainage and irrigation.
A tour of some of the affected areas has already been conducted by members of the incoming administration this morning and a report is being compiled on the needs of the affected areas.
In light of the urgency of this situation and my need to address it I will now crave your indulgence to leave hastily and do apologise for having to forego the usual formalities that accompany occasions such as this.
On behalf of the government of the People’s Partnership, may I thank you all for being here and to express once more my deepest gratitude to the people of Trinidad and Tobago for their overwhelming support.
May God Bless you all and May God Bless our nation.