The trinidad Guardian / Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar will discuss campaign finance reform, internal self government for Tobago and the Integrity Commission, among other matters when they meet on Tuesday. The issue of jobs and the economy, Rowley said, would not be discussed.
Persad-Bissessar indicated that she would not be swayed from pursuing those specific issues, and that she intended to raise issues of crime, jobs and the economy during her private meeting with Rowley although it is not listed on the agenda.
In a release yesterday, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) indicated that the two political leaders would also discuss Anti-Gang legislation, difficulty with the Judiciary, specifically the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), the effectiveness of the Service Commission and a Code of Conduct for MPs.
The meeting will take place on Tuesday at the Parliament on Wrightson Road.
According to the OPM, the invitation also indicated that the Leader of the Opposition was free to have a note-taker accompany her to the meeting.
The release said Persad-Bissessar, after being provided with the agenda, requested that the matters of crime, jobs and the economy be included among topics for discussion.
However, Rowley made it clear that the items on the agenda were those carded to go before the Parliament which require a special majority.
“It is in an effort to obtain Parliamentary collaboration as a way forward. In this regard, jobs and the economy do not fall into the category of items to be discussed. However, some discussion on crime could be entertained under the agenda item of Anti-Gang legislation.”
The release said Rowley looked forward to productive and fruitful discussions on these matters which require the engagement of the Opposition in the Parliament, and that he was of the view that this approach is in the best interest of the nation and will redound to the benefit of the people of T&T.
Addressing a forum hosted by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University at the Raja Yoga Centre in San Fernando yesterday, Persad-Bissessar said she was disappointed with the agenda set out by the Prime Minister because it did not include the crucial issues of crime, jobs and the economy.
Persad-Bissessar said: “Whilst the issues listed are matters of importance I was disappointed, I didn’t see issues that would be of immediate benefit to persons and I responded to his email and I said please add onto the agenda the issue of crime and the issue of jobs and the economy. I feel these are two critical areas in our nation at his time, crime is the number one issue.”
She said the Prime Minister told her the issues of jobs and the economy were not within the remit of the meeting.
“He said we could have a conversation on it, but it seems he has a fixed position in his mind that it should confine itself to only that which require parliamentary majority.
“But, we could have a conversation on it, but, to me, those are the two most crucial national matters and I intend to raise them at the meeting—crime, jobs and the economy, those are the two most significant national issues today in terms of the crisis our country is facing,” she told reporters afterwards.
Persad-Bissessar said she intended to take a member of her opposition staff with her as her note-taker. “I am prepared in the interests of the children of this country, in the interest of the people of this country, I am prepared to go, brave the lion’s den, if it is a lion’s den.”
Prepared to advise PM on Ayers-Caesar issue
Persad-Bissessar said with regards to the issue with former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar, she will explain to the Prime Minister why she believes there is a “particular direction that we can take as we go forward with that”.
Asked about what she expected to come out of the meeting, she said, “I trust we will have discussions such as to improve the quality of life of the people of T&T in the short term and certainly medium term. I would not want to say more to pre-empt what is to come. I go with an open mind and open heart. I am prepared and willing and we, in Opposition, are to do such that is necessary for the benefit of the people of T&T.”
On whether the Opposition has a position on the items on the agenda, she said, “It will be impossible to have a position on that without knowing what it entails and that’s why the discussion is important.
“Campaign finance reform is a buzzword, all are buzzwords, we will only know what the substance of it is following the discussion. I think it will be foolhardy and reckless of me to commit the Opposition on a position on something where we still don’t know the details of.”
What both parties have already said:
n INTERNAL SELF-GOVERNMENT FOR TOBAGO
Rowley: The PM said the issue of Tobago’s self-government will be dealt with as a matter of urgent importance by Central Government and said he was leading…to ask the Parliament, by way of Joint Select Committee, to very urgently receive Tobago’s request, and the Parliament of T&T engage in national discourse, so that the matter could be resolved once and for all. He raised concerns about the content of the bill.
Persad-Bissessar: In 2013, Persad-Bissessar said she and her coalition government, the People’s Partnership, were committed to internal self-government for Tobago. During the launch of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) January 21 THA election campaign in Scarborough, Persad-Bissessar said a Constitutional (Amendment) (Tobago) Bill 2012 has been prepared, taking into account the views received. She was then criticised by then chief secretary Orville London, who described her statements as insulting, and accused her of failing to have discussions at the THA level.
n CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Rowley: During the opening ceremony of the “Forum on Campaign Finance Reform” in May, Rowley said Government needed to craft legislation that was enforceable and legislation that could be operated.
Persad-Bissessar: During a luncheon by the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre in 2015 Persad-Bissessar said she intended to declare who are her party’s financiers but only if other political parties did the same. She said she was very committed to campaign reform, saying even while in Opposition she had called for such legislation.
n ANTI-GANG LEGISLATION
Rowley: In February 2016, at an HDC event, Rowley said the State’s intention was to “make full use” of anti-gang legislation to protect citizens from those who would overthrow their communities.
Persad-Bissessar: Persad-Bissessar, who introduced anti-gang legislation in 2011, issued a statement in July 2016, where she said the Opposition cannot in good conscience blindly support legislation that was passed for a specific period of time as a temporary measure to assist in the fight against crime.
n DIFFICULTY WITHIN JUDICIARY—JLSC MATTER
Rowley: Rowley said the imbroglio involving the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) and former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar, might very well only be resolved by the issue reaching Parliament.
Persad-Bissessar: Following the short-lived appointment of former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar as a judge, Persad-Bissessar said Chief Justice Ivor Archie and the JLSC should resign immediately in the interest of the country and the Judiciary.
n THE INTEGRITY COMMISSION
Rowley: The Prime Minister recently said there was an Integrity Commission that had no integrity in T&T, adding that when he looked at the overall situation on this particular matter (Marlene McDonald investigation), in his own experience and record of the Integrity Commission…”it could very well be a situation where the Integrity Commission is playing in the politics of Trinidad and Tobago and people are being hurt in the process”.
Persad-Bissessar: In January 2013, Persad-Bissessar issued a statement saying she had “voiced what many members of the public believe”, that the Integrity Commission was “inconsistent with the way it reacts and pronounces on matters before it, rushing to make public statements selectively on certain matters while remaining stonily silent on others of even greater public importance and urgency.”