Flashback: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, left, consoles Simone Williams, following the funeral service for her daughter Keyana Cumberbatch at the Council of Elders Spiritual Shouter Baptist Empowerment Hall, Churchill-Roosevelt Highway, Maloney, on December 4. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK


PM promises more power to the people

New Constitution among reforms for 2014...

 Trinidad and Tobago will have a new Constitution in 2014, says Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

In her New Year’s message to the nation, the Prime Minister said a new form of governance was on the way.

“It has taken time, but I wanted to make sure that the reforms were born out of the desires and ambitions of the people so that those reforms will last,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said some of the changes proposed include the right to recall a Member of Parliament, fixed dates for national and local elections and term limits for prime ministers. 

“These are bold steps forward in the right direction to strengthen our democracy and hand more power to the people. And it is a commitment that my primary interest is in serving you, not holding on to power,” she said.

She vowed her Government will continue its fight against crime.

She added the crimes against child­ren in 2013 “jol­ted us to our core”, and the Children’s Autho­ri­ty will be fully operational this year.

“Every family must feel safe. Too many families bear the tragic memory of personal loss, too many of you are traumatised by fear, too many of us feel resigned to insulating ourselves and denying our families the freedom of movement, which is our right, in order to escape cri­minals and bullies,” said Persad-Bissessar.

“In particular, the past year jolted us to our core when the reality of how unsafe some of our nation’s chil­dren are—even with their own families—hit us,” she added.

Cabinet, she said, has accep­ted the recommendations of the Child Protection Task Force, which was established following the murder of Keyanna Cumberbatch.

She said the Children’s Authority will become fully functional and legislative matters will be pursued to effect this.

The authority, she said, plans to be fully operational by August 2014 but before that date, it would open its first Assessment Centre at the Children’s Hospital at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) in Mt Hope and have it fully operational by June 2014.

She added the Ministry of Gen­der, Youth and Child Development is also building two assessment centres in south and central Trinidad, operational by September 2014.

“Our children are at great risk not only at home and their familiar environments but at other places such as foster homes and those un­der the supervision of caregivers in child-welfare institutions,” she said.

“I challenge every one of you to put aside partisan inte­rests and rise up against child abuse. I also ask all political leaders to join us to fight violence against our chil­dren and crime in general,” she added.

Persad-Bissessar has said 2014 will be an “exciting year” and Government will accelerate its pace of delivery.

The Prime Minister said from Jan­uary, the Government will launch what she des­cribed as the lar­gest co-or­di­-

nated national consultation in the nation’s history, the Na­tional Conversation.

“The National Conversation will be my Government’s continuing progress report to you. And it will be a two-way conversation that gives you, the people, the opportunity to direct us on where and how we must now proceed,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said through this conversation, there will be a review of priorities and an opportunity for people to have a say on the way forward.

Improving the health sector will also be a priority as she pointed out the hospital construction programme in Point Fortin, Penal, Sangre Grande and Couva will continue.

She disclosed there will also be plans for the major redevelopment of the Port of Spain Gen­eral Hospital, and in San Fer­nan­­do, Government will complete and deliver the Teaching Hospital. 

The Prime Minister assured inflation will be tackled and the prices of food will be fair.

“We know that we must do more; we will do more! That is a promise. We are doing all this while keeping the economy strong. Lowering the cost of food is only one part of our commitment to poverty eradication,” she said.

She further promised there will be more jobs for young people with advances in the On the Job Training (OJT) Pro­gramme.

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