OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says President Christine Kangaloo "missed a golden opportunity" to talk about transparency and accountability in government during her speech at the opening of Parliament on Monday. She said Kangaloo instead sounded apologetic in a defence of the ruling party.
Speaking to media at the Red House Rotunda after the ceremony to open the fourth session of the twelfth Parliament on Monday, Persad-Bissessar added that government had been a "total failure" in the managing the safety and security of Trinidad and Tobago.
She was responding to Kangaloo's earlier call for government and opposition to work together in the fight against rising crime.
In her speech, in urging more cross-bench collaboration against crime, Kangaloo said, "The urgency is obvious. The pain and the suffering are unbearable.
"These alone should drive parliamentarians to put aside their party rivalries, join hands across the aisle, and collaborate on how to stem crime and criminal conduct."
Kangaloo also listed four other areas of focus for the new parliamentary session: laws that protect and advance culture and the arts; legislation to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities and laws that address artificial intelligence and the implementation of work-from-home policies; a parliamentary committee to examine proposed bills; and an annual timetable for Parliament.
In response, Persad-Bissessar said she had not seen any of those initiatives come to fruition during Kangaloo's time as Senate president.
She claimed during that time, Kangaloo did not work collaboratively, but instead shut down speakers, was not transparent and did not take accountability.
Persad-Bissessar said, "We have called all the time for collaboration. That has been our mantra, 'Let's work together.'
"Numerous times we have asked the government to meet...they met once or twice many moons ago and took nothing on board from what we said."
Persad-Bissessar added, however, that she was still willing to collaborate with government on new legislation.
Asked about the likelihood of a Cabinet reshuffle, Persad-Bissessar said, "Well, I think (National Security Minister Fitzgerald) Hinds should go."
She followed up by saying that all Cabinet members should go and added, "When they go in their retreat, don't come back. They should all go. I can't see any change that they can make at this time."
She said a reshuffle was "in the cards" because "their backs are against the wall."
Referring to the President's earlier speech, Persad-Bissessar also said Kangaloo was "apologising for the failure of the MPs."
Kangaloo said sometimes people expect their elected MPs to pay their grocery bills, buy schoolbooks for their children and take on the role of plumbers when pipes in their homes burst. She said many elected MPs actually did those tasks.
But Persad-Bissessar said, "I don't know any MP doing plumbing."
She also asked government, "Where is the local government reform?"
She said the bill was passed last May and called on the government to "do what they wanted to do."
On the Parliament, Persad-Bissessar said, "We look forward to a very robust and aggressive session."
She added that she did not see Parliament sittings resuming until Budget Day, which she expected to be on October 2.
Government has not yet announced a date for the budget.