“[…] After some days of reflection and monitoring of the progress of the election recount process, I am satisfied that the people have spoken and that Dr [Keith] Rowley and his party shall form the new Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
“[…] The election is over and now, it is back to the harsh reality of working to put bread on the table and being our brother’s keeper.
“After careful thought, prayer and reflection I have decided to commit myself to the leadership of the party in and outside of Parliament until the internal elections. There will be no more opportunity to ‘Blame Kamla’ and I shall not allow myself to be portrayed as an obstructionist—as an excuse for the government not moving forward…”
The following is a press statement from UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who has conceded the 2020 General Election to the PNM and vowed to work with government ‘when we genuinely believe it is good for all of our people’; but will not resign as Opposition leader:
After some days of reflection and monitoring of the progress of the election recount process, I am satisfied that the people have spoken and that Dr [Keith] Rowley and his party shall form the new Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
I congratulate them and wish them the best.
I know that many of you are feeling a sense of disappointment with the election result. I, too, am disappointed with the election and I accept full responsibility for the result.
I share the grave concerns expressed by many about the election irregularities and the need to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process. We remain deeply concerned, especially since the release of correspondence relating to Trinidad and Tobago’s request for independent election observers raise more questions than answers.
I am proud of all our 39 candidates and their teams for their continued dedication to service to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I say a heartfelt thank you to Team UNC and the 309,000 plus citizens who voted for us.
Personally, I am disappointed with the results but note that the UNC was able to achieve gains in three of the key marginal seats, which may have given us a chance at that majority, but those gains were insufficient.
What the results have shown us is that once again our nation is deeply divided on which party should be running the affairs of Trinidad and Tobago. These divisions are being reflected in a lot of the bitter chatter on social media and across the country. This cannot be good for our country.
Many people may not remember that I first contested National Elections as a candidate for the National Alliance for Reconstruction, which still remains the only party to have been able to achieve an overwhelming mandate drawn from the widest possible representation of Trinidad and Tobago.
I have therefore always been one seeking to unite our country in trying to bring out its best.
In subsequent years, I saw the UNC and the People’s Partnership as the vehicle for recapturing that unity by appealing to a wide cross-section of the country. We had that opportunity in 2010. Unfortunately, the country has drifted far away from those ideals of unity. I am not prepared to fan the flames of hate.
We recognise that we operate in an adversarial political system but now is the time for reconciliation and healing among our people.
We are one nation. We are one people.
The election is over and now, it is back to the harsh reality of working to put bread on the table and being our brother’s keeper.
I call on all political parties and interests to resolve immediately that we will not let our beloved nation’s longstanding tradition of harmony, tolerance, and unity be jeopardised by expressions of hate, divisiveness, and fear-mongering. We must respect each other’s political choices without invoking and inciting race to divide our people.
I call on all citizens of good conscience to reject hate. I call on all our leaders across national and local government, public and private organisations, places of worship and NGO’s to raise our voices in national unity and confidently affirm:
“Here every creed and race find an equal place.”
On a more personal note, I have given the last 25 years of my life in dedicated service to my country. In this election, I invested in the youth of this nation. We have a parliamentary team that is full of young, brilliant and creative minds.
It is my duty to facilitate the development and transformation that must take place in the UNC with an eye on the future to ensure that the baton for leadership is passed into strong and capable hands at the appropriate time.
Some observers have been raising questions about my political future and, some are keen to see me exit the political landscape. This is understandable as I have myself queried whether I should resign. This is not an easy job.
You must accept responsibility for mistakes made whether you were aware of them or not, whether you had any control over them or not. And yes, some of them you make on your own—I lay no claim to infallibility. I accept full responsibility.
Having consulted with my colleagues, it is clear that running away is not an option at this point in time. The UNC must have a degree of stability as it consolidates and unites during the period of transition, growth and transformation.
I have reflected long and hard and have come to the conclusion that in the immediate future I have a key role to play in helping our country heal and move forward, especially with a group of young new vibrant MPs entering the House of Representatives.
The members of the UNC elected me overwhelmingly as their leader three times in the past ten years; tens of thousands of citizens voted for the party I lead in this year’s general election. Until such a time as our party chooses otherwise, I will remain their faithful champion and servant.
It has already been explained that the UNC will hold scheduled elections for a political leader. After careful thought, prayer and reflection I have decided to commit myself to the leadership of the party in and outside of Parliament until the internal elections.
There will be no more opportunity to ‘Blame Kamla’ and I shall not allow myself to be portrayed as an obstructionist—as an excuse for the government not moving forward.
As the year evolves, our party will decide on ways that we can contribute to moving this country forward and during this period, the members of the Party will determine the appropriate leadership to move us forward.
The government shall need to prepare itself for a fresh approach to Opposition politics. We will support when we genuinely believe it is good for all of our people and we will fight arrogance and injustice with the same determination.
An additional 5% swing in only two seats could easily have seen a different outcome. This razor thin margin reinforces that whoever won needs to approach governance with humility rather than arrogance and partisanship. The narrow margin reinforces the divisions within our country and the challenges to moving forward.
We cannot continue like this. All of our 1.3 million countrymen and women deserve better.
As we continue to press for ways to devolve governance to regional corporations, we must also once again revisit our national electoral structure and explore ways to be more inclusive. These are some of the goals that will define my legacy.
It is often said that a strong government needs an even stronger opposition. This is certainly true for our beloved country as we face unprecedented challenges that calls for a constructive partnership between government and opposition where the public interest is of paramount concern.
I therefore pledge to lead one of the strongest opposition forces in our political history with safety, accountability, transparency and equality as our priorities. If I can bring meaningful change to the way we live and govern ourselves, it will be far more fulfilling than simply holding the highest office in the land.
The twilight of my political career will be grounded in the same reasoning for entering politics in 1987—focused on uniting our country, where every creed and race can aspire to find an equal place.
These are the values on which our beloved nation was created. These are the values we teach our children. These are the values that must carry Trinidad and Tobago forward.
I have always told you, and do not think for one moment because the results have not gone in the manner we wanted, that this will change: “You will have many leaders, but you will never have a leader who loves you as much as I do.”
I thank each and every supporter our great party and every voter who has stood with us to defend our democracy. I thank everyone who has supported me over the years. I ask you, hand in hand, we have a responsibility as a people to protect our nation and our future.
Let us do so as a united people. Let us not allow ourselves to be divided and remember that our strength remains in our unity.
I say to all, life goes on, tomorrow you still have the chance to make the most of your day and we must not allow this loss to deter us. Let us continue to put God in front and walk behind.
May God bless you and may God bless our beloved Trinidad and Tobago.