ST. VINCENT: – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has congratulated the People’s Partnership, led by Kamla Persad Bissessar, on its “remarkable victory” in Monday’s general elections in Trinidad and Tobago.
He however noted that the new government was coming to office at a challenging time for the Caribbean region.
“I congratulate Mrs. Kamla Persad Bissessar, Winston Dookeran, Jack Warner and all the other leaders on what has been a remarkable victory,” he said on Tuesday, adding, “Democracy is alive and well.”
Gonsalves said the Caribbean would look to Persad Bissessar “for some leadership” in the face of the ongoing meltdown in Jamaica between police and supporters of drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke, which has left at least 11 dead.
He noted that Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson was “quite ill” and mentioned the voiding by a High Court judge in Antigua and Barbuda, election results of three government parliamentarians, including Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
Gonsalves further said polls indicate a victory for an outfit led by former dictator Desi Bouterse in elections being held in Suriname on Tuesday.
He said these developments where taking place amidst the global financial crisis.
Gonsalves said the coalition, even before its victory, had reassured him of its commitment to regional integration.
“That is the issue which concerns me most. Internally in Trinidad and Tobago, that is for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Naturally, I would be concerned about the issues of regional integration and I am happy to hear that they have a policy commitment in the regard,” he said. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
But Gonsalves would undoubtedly be concerned about the new government’s position on his “coalition of the willing”, a group of nations, including Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Taiwan, and Trinidad and Tobago, partnering to build an international airport in St. Vincent.
This was among the “specific matters” on which Gonsalves said his government “would need clarification very early”.
He also mentioned Trinidad and Tobago’s continued role in a successor company to the cash-strapped British American Insurance Company.
Regional governments were discussing with Trinidad and Tobago a possible US$100 million investment in the new entity.
“We had gone some long way on this,” Gonsalves said. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)
He further said that he would want to discuss with the new administration existing bilateral agreements between Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), including “further assistance in relation to the airport”.
The international airport under construction in St. Vincent is a major component of Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party administration, which is due to face the electorate before March 2011 to seek a third consecutive term in office.
He said he was confident that the “excellent relations” between Trinidad and Tobago and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and SVG would continue under the new government.
Gonsalves however said it may take a while to build with Bissessar the type of relationship he had with Manning, his university friend.
“Kamla seems to be full of energy and I am looking forward to having excellent relations with her. She has a personality that I think I would fall in love with. She is bubbly, she is a Caribbean woman. I don’t see any difficulties,” Gonsalves said.
Bissessar, a 58-year-old lawyer, is heading towards becoming the first female prime minister of the oil-rich twin-island republic.
Incumbent Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, gambled and lost when he called snap elections two and a half years ahead of schedule.
Preliminary results indicate that People’s Partnership, a combination of five opposition parties and trade unions, won 29 seats.
Manning’s People’s National Movement (PNM) won the remaining 12, losing 14 of the 26 seats it held in the Parliament it led for the past eight years.