RADHICA DE SILVA
Hard times are ahead for the next two years.
This was the declaration from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last night as the People’s National Movement secured a 22-19 seat victory over the United National Congress in the 2020 General Election.
Just after 10.30 pm, Rowley addressed a small gathering at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain declaring victory in the pandemic-hit election and giving his victory speech, in which he promised to do his best to lead T&T out of the current difficult and trying economic times.
“Tonight, the PNM has won the general elections. Tonight, against all odds in a most difficult situation, the PNM has been called to service in the government of T&T for a second time,” Rowley said proudly.
Saying the journey was difficult, Rowley said the PNM had steered the course and despite the adversity, “the people of T&T had done the right thing.”
He said the PNM had lost many votes from senior citizens who could not come out to vote because of COVID-19.
“In a pandemic, a number of senior citizens didn’t participate, the young people came to the fore and this victory is largely the involvement of youths,” Rowley said.
“The future in T&T is bright. We have difficult days ahead but as dark showers will bring thunder and lightning, after that there is bright sunshine. The passage of the storm is to survive and then enjoy the good weather,” he said.
But he warned, “The next two years will be very difficult but during that period we are required to do things to be in a better position to enjoy a brighter future. Elections tonight are over and tomorrow the elections are behind us. Let’s be one people together, working together. In this period, let’s put aside personal slights, personal wants and look at the national needs, especially those who can’t look after themselves.”
He added, “The government will play a role and build an economy in such a way that all of us are lifted by the rising tide and say mother Trinidad has been good.”
He said all the measures that the PNM planned will be executed.
“I will return to office in Whitehall as the Prime Minister of T&T. We contested hard,” he said.The Prime Minister urged the country to make changes in the short term which will bring benefits later on.
“We have made commitments and we will carry out the commitments and we have a mandate and by God we will do what we said we will do,” he vowed.
He also hinted that the next five years will be his last term in political office. He smiled coyly and hugged his wife Sharon as he declared his intention.
Rowley said he planned to hand the mantle to young politicians whom he has been mentoring.
“To all candidates who have not won a seat, you are winners, your party has won the general elections. We will provide stable and sober leadership,” he said.
With the election over, Rowley urged the country to “go back to being one people.” He said the priority now must be to ensure that no one is left behind and that those least able to take care of themselves must be looked after.
He vowed to digitize the country and expand the economy in agriculture after he picks his Cabinet this week.
Dr Rowley also paid tribute to his wife Sharon as well as the PNM’s public relations officer Laura Lezama-Lee Singh.
He also said he was pleased that COVID-19 protocols were adhered to.
Although the PNM declared victory, the political leader of the United National Congress Kamla Persad-Bissessar refused to concede defeat. Instead, Persad-Bissessar announced that the UNC will be asking for recounts in marginal areas.
“We fought a good fight. However, tonight I am not giving a concessionary speech. I am not conceding. Our candidates in several marginals are filing for recounts and only then we can concede. Go brave, we fought a good fight and we will continue to go and fight,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She added, “I am somewhat surprised by the results. The fights are not over until the recounts are done. Our party did very well, we could have done better. We fought a clean fight. It’s not over. There will be recounts.”
She congratulated the UNC Moruga/Tableland candidate Michelle Benjamin and Princes Town candidate Barry Padarath who won their seats.