Saying the Government would focus on the needs of the population, the Prime Minister said there were still discriminatory practices in terms of how the sexes are remunerated.
“There are still women getting less pay,” Persad-Bissessar said. “Therefore, we will work harder for equal pay between men and women.” In a near hour and a half address, the UNC political leader focused on plans for the future if the PP is returned.
She announced that a US$35 million (TT$221million) crime-fighting vessel – one of 12 recently procured by the State – had arrived; that yet another hospital was planned and that the proposed national oncology centre will be opened in the current term.
Persad-Bissessar was silent on the emailgate affair which has embroiled several independent institutions over the last few weeks including the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; the Police Service and the Integrity Commission. Though she mentioned no specific office, the Prime Minister said there was a need for stronger independent bodies. “We need to strengthen the independent institutions of the State,” she said.
It was a return to the same venue where the PP Partnership coalition held a rally in 2010, one week before that year’s poll. The park — named after Learie Constantine who was a cricketer, lawyer, politician, pioneering race relations lobbyist and founding member of the PNM — is straddled by the Tunapuna and St Augustine constituencies at the heart of the crucial east-west corridor.
Though the Prime Minister last week cancelled several engagements due to ill-heath, she set out yesterday to aggressively rally her PP troops and reflect on her last five years in office. She said she would continue, “the great fight”.
“For five years you have stood by my side, you have honoured me and sometimes chastised me, but you know what? You never gave up on me. And you know what? I never gave up on you! You are my rock, my strength and upon your shoulders we will win,” she told the crowd which was estimated by officials at being in the region of 25,000.
“Today I am renewed with a spirit of resolve and determination to take your hands to fight the battle ahead on your behalf so our country will never return to that place of desolation it used to be before.” Persad-Bissessar said “naysayers” had said the coalition would collapse.
“The naysayers said we would collapse as a coalition,” she said. “The partnership and the people have proven them wrong by standing together and standing with me. When the dust settles this evening we will wipe the opposition off the face of the map. It will be the Partnership that will be the vehicle to take you forward into the future.”
Persad-Bissessar said the total cost of the 12 crime-fighting vessels would be US$100 less than a previous plan for offshore patrol vessels. “We will continue aggressive efforts to decrease every single type of crime,” Persad-Bissessar said. “The first of twelve ships which has already arrived on the shores of Trinidad and Tobago. This ship is one of 12 that we are purchasing to lock down our maritime borders, to lock down drug, human trafficking and guns.”
The Prime Minister said there would be a new medical tourism hospital, “involving the public and private sector and the university supported by international collaboration”. She said this new hospital would be, “separate and distinct from other state facilities”. Of new State hospitals currently under construction, she said, “We will soon open the first ever children’s hospital in Trinidad and Tobago. We will soon open the first ever oncology centre in Trinidad and Tobago. (The latter) was promised for decades. We will open it in this term, in this year.”
Persad-Bissessar also listed some of the proposed flagship projects going forward for her administration. These include: starting the San Fernando to Mayaro highway; consultations on the causeway to Chaguaramas; dry docking facilities at La Brea; development of seven economic zones including manufacturing and agriculture; consultations on the proposed San Fernando waterfront project; a marina at Tobago and making that island “a duty-free port” in collaboration with the Tobago House of Assembly; and renewal of Port-of-Spain and its waterfront.
The Prime Minister said for the first half of the year there has been a surplus of $47 million, instead of a projected deficit of $3.8 billion due to oil and gas prices staying higher than revised budgetary estimates.
“We must have a second term in office to continue the transformation which needs to be made, to build on the achievements already accomplished,” the Prime Minister said. She also paid tribute to UNC founder Basdeo Panday, who today celebrates his birthday.
“To Mr Panday, I say thank you Mr Panday for your faith in me,” she said. “I know Mr Panday your birthday is (today) I say let us shout out to Mr Panday happy birthday!” Paraphrasing the Machel Montano soca, the Prime Minister said she was the, “happiest woman alive”.
“We must have done a great job in the five years,” she said.
The UNC political leader sought to galvanise supporters saying a series of attacks would be launched in the upcoming campaign.
“Do not be deterred by all the negative, false and malicious reports coming from the other side,” she said. “Many more scurrilous lies and attacks they will hurl at the Partnership members. Do not fear them. Do not let them deter you. Do not fall for their lies and their desperation.”