Panday out of Opposition Leader seat

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, February 26, 2010 – A month after taking over the reins of the opposition United National Congress (UNC) from Basdeo Panday, Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday took the Opposition Leader position in the House of Representatives.

Now she has her sights set on sitting on the other side.

“I see today as being one step closer to government. That is how I see my assumption of the post of Opposition Leader this afternoon,” she told reporters after receiving her instruments of appointment. “Our party now speaks with one voice. We will chart a new way forward to deliver on the hopes and expectations of our citizenry, desperate for a way out of the crisis which the (Patrick Manning) administration has led this nation into.”

Persad-Bissessar added that she would bring citizens relief by leading her party back into government.

“I oppose the lack of compassion and concern for the well-being of our citizens, so many of whom are ironically supporters of the ruling party. I oppose the trampling of the rights of workers. I oppose the view that people will vote only along tribal and ethnic lines regardless of whether they are being properly represented or not. But my greatest opposition is to the sense that things cannot be changed. I pledge to the nation that Trinidad and Tobago will be returned to the peaceful, stable and progressive society it once was,” she said.

The 57-year-old, who once served as Opposition leader in 2006 while Panday was on remand in prison on corruption charges, received the support of the required majority of the 15 opposition MPs who signed a letter that was delivered to President George Maxwell Richards a day earlier.

Although most of the MPs loyal to Panday were absent from parliament yesterday, Persad-Bissessar reached out to them.

“The nation’s ship is sinking. We need all hands on deck at this time. I welcome everyone,” she said. “The criteria must really be that you must share our vision and share our mission, and we go forward.”

The UNC leader further urged Panday to reconsider his announced plan to sit on the Opposition backbench in Parliament.

She said efforts will continue to make the party a cohesive unit.