PNM Senator Pennelope Beckles yesterday took Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to task for her decision not to participate in the Leaders’ Debate organised by the Trinidad and Tobago Debates Commission.
She also criticised the Prime Minister for stating that an attack on her was an attack on all women and mothers.
Beckles, who is chairman of the Women’s League of the People’s National Movement (PNM), was addressing the party’s 45 female candidates for the October 21 local government elections at a seminar at Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s.
“I want to say to our honourable Prime Minister, that if you do the right thing, people would not be attacking you the way that they are,” Beckles said.
“As women politicians when we offer ourselves to serve, we don’t want any special favours. When you offer yourself as a leader, you don’t get elected because you are a woman, you get elected because you are competent, qualified, because you deliver, because people can see that you want to make a difference.
“So do not expect that because you are a woman, you are not going to be criticised,” Beckles stated.
“Today we should have had the debate between the leaders of the People’s Partnership, the PNM, the ILP (Independent Liberal Party) and the MSJ (Movement for Social Justice). The Prime Minister would have had the opportunity to be the only woman debating among all these men...we would have all been waiting to see how she would have delivered as a woman.
“She has failed, failed, failed to go and represent us as woman today....You have a Fyzabad Accord which says you are the leader but you gone to delegate leadership. You cannot delegate leadership, you either are the leader or not.
Beckles said the PNM had always supported the advancement of women. She said the highest number of women Ministers in the country’s history—11—were in the Patrick Manning Cabinet. She said the PNM had two women—herself and Marlene McDonald—as leaders of its parliamentary bench in the Senate and House of Representatives. By contrast, Beckles said, for all the trumpeting of Persad-Bissessar as the first female PM, the People’s Partnership Cabinet had only three ministers.
And, she said, many of the persons who have been fired and demoted by Persad-Bissessar were women such as Mary King, Therese Baptiste-Connelis, Nan Ramgoolam, Verna St Rose-Greaves, Christlyn Moore (fired); while Vernella Alleyne-Toppin and Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan were demoted.
—See Pages 7 and 9