(Trinidad Guardian) Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar will discuss campaign finance reform, internal self government for Tobago and the Integrity Commission, among other matters when they meet tomorrow. The issue of jobs and the economy, Rowley said, would not be discussed.
Persad-Bissessar indicated that she would not be swayed from pursuing those specific issues, and that she intended to raise issues of crime, jobs and the economy during her private meeting with Rowley although it is not listed on the agenda. In a release on Saturday, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) indicated that the two political leaders would also discuss Anti-Gang legislation, difficulty with the Judiciary, specifically the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), the effectiveness of the Service Commission and a Code of Conduct for MPs.
The meeting will take place at the Parliament on Wrightson Road.
According to the OPM, the invitation also indicated that the Leader of the Opposition was free to have a note-taker accompany her to the meeting.
The release said Persad-Bissessar, after being provided with the agenda, requested that the matters of crime, jobs and the economy be included among topics for discussion. However, Rowley made it clear that the items on the agenda were those carded to go before the Parliament which require a special majority.
“It is in an effort to obtain Parliamentary collaboration as a way forward. In this regard, jobs and the economy do not fall into the category of items to be discussed. However, some discussion on crime could be entertained under the agenda item of Anti-Gang legislation.”
The release said Rowley looked forward to productive and fruitful discussions on these matters which require the engagement of the Opposition in the Parliament, and that he was of the view that this approach is in the best interest of the nation and will redound to the benefit of the people of T&T. Addressing a forum hosted by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University at the Raja Yoga Centre in San Fernando on Saturday, Persad-Bissessar said she was disappointed with the agenda set out by the Prime Minister because it did not include the crucial issues of crime, jobs and the economy.
Persad-Bissessar said: “Whilst the issues listed are matters of importance I was disappointed, I didn’t see issues that would be of immediate benefit to persons and I responded to his email and I said please add onto the agenda the issue of crime and the issue of jobs and the economy. I feel these are two critical areas in our nation at his time, crime is the number one issue.”
She said the Prime Minister told her the issues of jobs and the economy were not within the remit of the meeting.
“He said we could have a conversation on it, but it seems he has a fixed position in his mind that it should confine itself to only that which require parliamentary majority.
“But, we could have a conversation on it, but, to me, those are the two most crucial national matters and I intend to raise them at the meeting—crime, jobs and the economy, those are the two most significant national issues today in terms of the crisis our country is facing,” she told reporters afterwards.
Persad-Bissessar said she intended to take a member of her opposition staff with her as her note-taker. “I am prepared in the interests of the children of this country, in the interest of the people of this country, I am prepared to go, brave the lion’s den, if it is a lion’s den.”
Persad-Bissessar said with regards to the issue with former chief magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar, she will explain to the Prime Minister why she believes there is a “particular direction that we can take as we go forward with that”.
Asked about what she expected to come out of the meeting, she said, “I trust we will have discussions such as to improve the quality of life of the people of T&T in the short term and certainly medium term. I would not want to say more to pre-empt what is to come. I go with an open mind and open heart. I am prepared and willing and we, in Opposition, are to do such that is necessary for the benefit of the people of T&T.”
On whether the Opposition has a position on the items on the agenda, she said, “It will be impossible to have a position on that without knowing what it entails and that’s why the discussion is important.
“Campaign finance reform is a buzzword, all are buzzwords, we will only know what the substance of it is following the discussion. I think it will be foolhardy and reckless of me to