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Archive for May, 2010

Woman is Boss in Trinidad and Tobago

Posted by admin On May - 28 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Mother of the Nation Crushes Manning

By Susan Gosine

Calypsonian Denyse Plummer once sang Woman is Boss. On Monday May 24, 2010, a simple mother and grand-mother, Kamla Persad-Bessessar immortalized those words locally when she dethroned the mighty Patrick Manning from his TT$300 million palatial mansion and banished him back to the life of a commoner.

First Female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Persad-Bissessar has created political history and changed the direction of politics in Trinidad and Tobago. Her success at the polls (29 to 12) has brought pride to every mother, sister and daughter in Trinidad and Tobago and has won her the admiration and respect of her detractors who had shamelessly attacked her character and had labeled her “weak,”  in the days leading up to the May 24 general elections.

As the first female Prime Minister of a country dominated by male egos for the past 38 years, she has had her share of female bashing on the hustings from men and certain women who clearly saw her as a force to be reckoned with. She has shown them, not once, but several times that woman is indeed boss.

Political Leader of the UNC Kamla Persad-Bissessar Takes the Oath of Office on the Bhagavad Gita as the First Female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Looking on is President Max Richards.

In five months the affable attorney who once acted as Prime Minister under the Basdeo Panday administration and was once the Attorney General, has gone from a Member of Parliament (Siparia) to leader of the United National Congress (UNC) to political leader of the Opposition, and with a huff and a puff has blasted Prime Minister Patrick Manning out of the Parliament in a historic landslide victory in the snap elections of 2010, to become the first female Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. And that “my dear brothers and sisters” is living proof that woman is indeed boss and can achieve anything she sets her mind to.

And if the late Dr. Eric Williams, the first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago is respectfully referred to as the Father of the Nation, then the first female Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar shall rightly ascend her position in history alongside him as the Mother of the Nation.

And as Madam Prime Minister begins a new chapter in her political life, at the helm of the People’s Partnership, it is fervently hoped that she will deliver if not all, at least some of the most urgent of promises the party made on the hustings and in its manifesto.

Defeated at the polls former Prime Minister Patrick Manning has tendered his resignation from the People's National Movement.

Similarly, I hope former Prime Minister Patrick Manning will find the transition from stately life to one devoid of police escorts and a detailed security, Calder Hart and UDECOTT, a less frightening one than those who cowered in their homes from the overwhelming crime wave that had tarnished the country’s image internationally.

As one era has ended another has begun, under the administration of a woman who has extended her hands to all to join with her in healing the nation of the wounds that had been inflicted upon it by a seemingly unflinching prime minister.

In the words of the National Anthem “together we aspire, together we achieve,” it is hoped that all peoples of Trinidad and Tobago will join together and bring about the change dearly needed in many sectors. In so doing “we shall rise,” as a proud nation that we will also be proud of.
Enough said.

The following is the speech delivered by the newly elected Prime Minister of T&T, the Honourable Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar on May 26th, 2010 at Knowsley House, Port-of-Spain.

Inauguration Speech

My fellow citizens…it gives me great pleasure to address you for the very first time as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

This has been quite a journey for me. It is the summary of a life in public office that spans some 25 years but one which most people will long remember for its past five months.

As you all know, I was elected on February 24th of this year as Political Leader of the UNC, and on March 24th became Leader of the Opposition and now I humbly received the honour to have been elected Prime Minister on May 24th 2010.

But that as far as I will indulge myself in personalising the sequence of events,
of far greater importance is enormous responsibility I now bear along with the leadership of the People’s Partnership and our administration to address the urgent social issues at hand and move the nation forward.

Change has indeed come.

The time has arrived to open a new chapter in our nation’s history. It’s time for all of us to stand together side by side. Trinidad alongside Tobago. Members and supporters of all political persuasions, citizens all, arm in arm.

Today we start the work of transforming the hope and promise of change into the reality of change. And while we leave the euphoria and the emotion of the election behind us, what we do not stray from is the unity the election has forged.

This morning we leave the labels behind and we move forward as one nation – all committed to the same goal – a safer, more prosperous and just Trinidad and Tobago where we all have opportunity and equality.

No more labels. No more prefixes of Afro and Indo nor North and South nor East West corridors. The election is over. It was a means towards an end. Now as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago we are all beneficiaries of the mandate given by the people. This is a victory for all citizens.

Our love of country must now move to the forefront. And we must recommit ourselves to our nation and to ourselves. We’re not checking party cards or keeping notes on supporters lists. The task of rebuilding Trinidad and Tobago will require the participation of everyone and you are all invited to sit at the nation’s table.

Our country has had enough of top down government. We’re going to reverse that order of things. Throughout the campaign, we were clear about our plans. And so today…we begin the process of making them government policy.

My fellow citizens, the task ahead of us is challenging and we need all our nation’s talent, all our nation’s wisdom, all our nation’s people on board with us. It’s time to build a future which we can all share, hold pride in and pass on to our children with confidence.

We have been given an immense opportunity for developing Trinidad and Tobago in ways many might not have thought possible. The abundant talent of our people in so many spheres is world renowned and we are blessed with rich natural resources. There is no reason why our nation cannot reach heights of development never seen before.

This development must not be measured in the grandeur of tall structures as an architectural manifestation of how far we have come but by the level of human development of our people, by the extent to which the needs of people have been satisfied, by the way things just work well, by the degree of safety and security that our people and the nation enjoy, by the enabling environment created for business to flourish and a renaissance of the arts and culture to emerge, by the mutual respect we hold for each other, by the level of education provided to our young ones and the quality of care given to our little children and by the success we achieve in addressing the very pressing social concerns such as poverty alleviation, domestic violence and child abuse. These are just some of the ways in which our development must be measured.

What happens from this day forward is in our hands. It is up to us. And so the challenge before us – is to stay as one people. We must never allow the seeds of separation to regain hold on our soil. This afternoon, the new chapter we turn is a fresh start for all of us.

New Directions.

Over the next few days I will be making the appointments of members of my cabinet following consultations with the leadership of the People’s Partnership. I promise you it will be comprised of the most competent, committed and qualified individuals.

On composition of the Cabinet my administration will bring Tobago into the core administration of government. And I formally announce this afternoon that there will be an establishment of a Ministry of Tobago Development as we look to bring our sister isle on as equal partners in the development of our twin island state.

Our administration will be addressing social and economic restructuring in the medium term as we look to fast track the changes so urgently required. We will be targeting Ministries to give an account on specific deliverables within a timeframe, as an example, food production. This will be a performance driven formula that measures results and holds those in authority accountable to meeting their goals and objectives.

Under the Office of the Prime Minister, special emphasis will be placed on restoring the dignity and effectiveness of Parliament. In this context, the Red House will remain the Seat of the Parliament.

Parliamentary oversight on key issues has gone into abeyance and in an effort to ensure Parliament is not just a rubber stamp we will be making immediate steps to institute Parliamentary reform under the Office of the Prime Minister.

The People’s Partnership government I lead will be moving towards the delivery of an early budget after candid assessments are conducted on the state of the nation’s finances and economy. The budget provisions based will be developed to give effect to the priorities of the new direction of our new government.

At the conclusion of this afternoon’s ceremony, one of my first acts as Prime Minister will be to meet with the Head of the Office of the Disaster Preparedness and Management along with the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Sandra Marchack, to discuss the current flooding in various parts of the island and the impending increased level of flooding. Arising out of those discussions, a release will be issued on the decisions arrived at and the course of action to be taken.

This situation underlines the need of our new administration to fast track all assessment and begin the process of implementing both short term and long term solutions in so many areas including those such as drainage and irrigation.

A tour of some of the affected areas has already been conducted by members of the incoming administration this morning and a report is being compiled on the needs of the affected areas.

In light of the urgency of this situation and my need to address it I will now crave your indulgence to leave hastily and do apologise for having to forego the usual formalities that accompany occasions such as this.

On behalf of the government of the People’s Partnership, may I thank you all for being here and to express once more my deepest gratitude to the people of Trinidad and Tobago for their overwhelming support.

May God Bless you all and May God Bless our nation.

Take A Stand: Immigration

Posted by admin On May - 4 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Student Activists Highlight Immigrants’ Plight

Four illegal immigrant  college students walked for four months covering some 1,500 miles from Miami, Florida to Washington D.C. to force President Barack Obama to sign an order to stop deportation of illegal immigrants with family members in the United States of America.

Supporters at the immigration rally (web photo congress.org)

The group was greeted by dozens of Hispanic American supporters who cheered them on when they arrived in D.C. on Monday.

The Floridians who came to the U.S. when they were children are now hailed as heroes in their communities for openly declaring their immigration status and demanding that the president sign an executive order to stop deportations of people with family members who are U.S. citizens.

“These kids represent our dream and vision, the idea that things can get better,” said Lucero Beebe-Giudice of Tenants and Workers United, the nonprofit that hosted the celebration.

The students plan to deliver a petition with 30,000 signatures to the president on Wednesday and participate in a rally on Saturday outside the White House. During this week they will be meeting with community activists and lawmakers.

After leaving Miami, their first stop was  Chirilagua, Alexandria, the hub of a large Latino community in Northern Virginia. There they answered questions from the media and community members.

“We believe that by bringing the message directly to Obama’s hands, we will make a difference,” said Felipe Matos, a 24-year-old student at Miami Dade College, who came the U.S. at the age of 14.

Matos and his fellow travelers were members of Students Working for Equal Rights before they decided to begin their trek . They act as a support group for illegal immigrants.

While their illegal status allowed them to attend school and college, they noted that their job prospects were greatly affected by their undocumented state.

“We can’t keep on moving,” Juan Rodriguez, 20, who was six when he came to the U.S. “The taxpayers in this country made a contribution in each of us. We went through public school. We speak English. And now all we want to do is contribute.”

Though Rodriguez was able to get legal residency last year, he has continued his activism to help others who cannot.

The students’ arrival comes in the midst of an immigration awareness sparked by the new Arizona immigration law which has stirred up strong emotions, protest, rallies and may provoke debate on Capital Hill.

Meanwhile immigrant activists and other support groups are calling on all immigrants to take a stand against the new Arizona immigration law.
Democratic lawmakers said they may have a bill soon with focus on border security first, including expanding the number of border patrol officers and deporting illegal immigrants in prison.
But it also creates a pathway to citizenship for the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
A person would begin by passing a criminal background check and paying pending fees and taxes. Eight years later, they could apply for legal resident status by demonstrating, among other things, English-language skills.
Opponents criticize this measure as “amnesty,” but supporters say it is a necessary part of the plan.

Click the appropriate link below to send your letter to Obama and your Members of Congress.

Allow illegal immigrants a path to citizenship
Come up with a better plan to deal with the issue
Sources: Congress.org

Protest Over Arizona Immigration Law

Posted by admin On May - 1 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

Call for Immigration Overhaul

On Saturday May 1, 2010 tens of thousands of angry placard bearing demonstrators joined marches and rallies in cities across America in protest of Arizona’s new immigration law.

Protesters gathered around the country on Saturday, including in Washington, criticizing an Arizona immigration law and calling for a federal overhaul. Photo Lake Sharett, New York Times

The activists are demanding that Congress pass an immigration overhaul and have called for a boycott of Arizona businesses. Supporters, however, say the law is necessary because of the federal government’s failure to secure the border. They referred to Friday’s attack on deputy sheriff Louie Puroll who was shot and wounded after coming across a band of suspected drug smugglers about 50 miles south of Phoenix. Brewer and others said the attack shows a growing problem with a porous border in southern Arizona and was proof that something had to be done quickly.

President Barack Obama had once promised to tackle immigration reform in his first 100 days, but has pushed back that timetable several times.

In New York some 5,000 people attended the rally at Manhattan’s Foley Square. Organiser John Delgado said anger over the new Arizona law—which requires local police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they’re in the country illegally, “has awakened a sleeping giant.”

In Washington, Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, was arrested after staging a sit-in on the sidewalk in front of the White House with about three dozen other people, in front of a crowd of thousands.

Around 3 p.m. Gutierrez sitting cross-legged holding a small American flag and wearing a white T-shirt with red letters that stated, “Arrest me not my friends.” The protesters each held letters that spelled out the message, “Obama, stop deporting our families.”

Mr. Gutierrez was handcuffed behind his back with plastic cuffs by the Park Police. He remained silent when an officer led him away along the black wrought-iron fence in front of the White House.  Among others arrested with him were Jaime Contreras, director for Washington, D.C., of the Service Employees International Union, Joshua Hoyt, Ali Noorani and Deepak Bhargava, leaders of immigrant advocate organizations.

Before he was arrested, Gutierrez, speaking in English and Spanish said “There are moments in which you say, ‘We will escalate this struggle,’ Today they will put handcuffs on us. But one day we will be free at last in the country we love.” In all, 35 people were arrested in the sit-in, the United States Park Police said.

Gloria Estefan kicked off a massive march through downtown Los Angeles to demand immigration reform and protest the Arizona law. She spoke in Spanish and English from on top of a flatbed truck, proclaiming the United States as a nation of immigrants. She said immigrants are good, hardworking people, not criminals.

In 2006 more than a million people across the US protested the unsuccessful federal legislation that would have made being an illegal immigrant a felony. The movement fractured and the annual May 1 rally’s attendance dropped as attempts to reform federal immigration policy fizzled. Last year, fewer than 15,000 participated in the rallies, held on May 1. Since Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the new immigration law on Friday April 23, activists began a mobilization that has culminated in the rallies yesterday.

“What happened in Arizona proves that racism and anti-immigrant hysteria across the country still exists. We need to continue to fight,” said Lee Siu Hin, a coordinator with the Washington, D.C.-based National Immigrant Solidarity Network.

Critics of the law say it’s unconstitutional and encourages racial profiling and discrimination against immigrants or anyone thought to be an immigrant. But they say that without federal legislation in place to address the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., other states may follow Arizona’s lead.

“If Republicans and Democrats do not take care of this albatross around our necks, this will in fact be the undoing of many, many years of civil rights struggle in this country,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles

California legislators have mulled canceling contracts with Arizona in protest. Denver Public Schools has banned work-related travel to Arizona. And several legal challenges, preventing the bill from going into effect this summer, are in the works.

“Given what’s happening in Arizona now it’s crucial for us to speak out and denounce what’s happening,” said Veronica Mendez, an organizer with the Workers Interfaith Network in Minneapolis, where there’s also a Saturday rally. “We all have the same hopes and goals.”

At rally after rally across the nation, protesters chanted “shame, shame, Arizona,” and carried signs saying, “Todos Somos Arizona,” or “We are All Arizona.”