AS long as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar remains ahead of Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley in the popularity polls, the People’s Partnership coalition will take heart, United National Congress (UNC) deputy political leader Dr Roodal Moonilal said yesterday.
“We take heart that (Persad-Bissessar) is still ahead of (Rowley) in terms of national popularity and support because after all (she) will be our prime ministerial candidate in the next election. We have not kicked in election gear as yet, but as we take heart with the results and we believe when we speak to the achievements of her administration and her fitness for office and what we have been able to do in five years, we are convinced we can get the majority of Trinidad and Tobago to support us,” Moonilal told the Express in a telephone interview yesterday.
This is despite a North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) poll, which was published in newspapers yesterday, showing Persad-Bissessar’s approval rating was 44 per cent and falling, while Rowley’s was 43 per cent and rising.
Moonilal noted the coalition was now coming out of its mid-term period and was not in campaign mode yet. That said, the party was monitoring the popularity of Rowley and his challenger for the post of political leader in the People’s National Movement (PNM) internal elections on May 18.
“We will observe that to see who is the preferred candidate, but whomever leads the PNM, it is the same PNM and that has been our target regardless who is in charge. I don’t think it will make any fundamental difference,” he said.
The NACTA poll also noted that close to two-thirds of those polled felt the Government’s work is not being properly communicated to the nation, impacting the ratings of the People’s Partnership and Persad-Bissessar.
“A poll is a snapshot of the electorate at a particular time and we take polls seriously. We need to take note of what people are saying,” said Communications Minister Gerald Hadeed.
The Government’s achievements are not being fully articulated, he said, and while he has only been on the job for three months his job will be to ensure “the good work of the Government”.
He said by April 1 he hoped to have a programme in place to address the situation, not just for citizens but for the media.
“I am confident that by the time I am done, I am confident that from these works we will not lose another election. My job is to ensure the entire country knows the quality and quantiy of work we have done all over Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
Moonilal, who is acting Minister of Foreign Affairs while Winston Dookeran is in China, also gave an update on the situation of Trinidad and Tobago nationals in Venezuela.
“There are holiday-makers and people on business travel...we don’t have the numbers. We are concerned about the safety and security of the embassy staff, but it hasn’t reached a point yet where it is necessary to ask them to return, but we are monitoring it on a daily basis.”
He said there was a threat assessment system and he had been advised that the point to recall staff has not yet been reached.
“We are monitoring it on a daily basis. We know it is a difficult situation and significant security concerns, but at this moment we are not removing staff; I’ve had discussions with both (National Security Minister) Gary Griffith and (Finance Minister) Larry Howai (line minister for Caribbean Airlines) on this matter and we are in a position to evacuate staff if that becomes necessary.”
Moonilal said Trinidad and Tobago had enjoyed decades of good relationships with the people and government of Venezuela and respected the sovereignty of the people of Venezuela and was hopeful good sense will prevail that will resolve that country’s challenges.