Despite several challenges facing the twin-island republic, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley says his new People’s National Movement (PNM) administration is “making steady progress” in addressing them.
In delivering the keynote address Thursday night, at the inaugural International Education Awards Ceremony at Brooklyn’s predominantly Black Medgar Evers College, City University of New York (CUNY), Rowley said his eight-month-old administration has, “step by step,” been “putting modalities in place after five years of recklessness and irresponsible governance.
“The special entities we’ve set up to improve lives are taking roots,” said Dr. Rowley in a 40-minute address at the end of the award ceremony that featured four presentations to faculty, students and a corporate sponsor.
“We’re tackling waste and corruption; we’ve established a smaller Cabinet — the size of government has been reduced from 54 to 24,” added Rowley in listing several initiatives underway or on stream.
These, he said, include, a “thorough review of the health sector;” the tabling of “whistle blower” legislation to tackle corruption; the creation of jobs, particularly for young people; and the address of the spiraling crime wave.
“We’re facing a crime wave,” declared Dr. Rowley, stating that his administration has “changed legislation to have a Commissioner of Police, but the opposition has taken us to court.
“We’ll go to court,” he added, as the standing-room-only audience of students, faculty, staff, officials and members of the Caribbean community in the New York metropolitan area applauded.
The Trinidad and Tobago prime minister bemoaned the Parliamentary opposition’s rejection of an eavesdropping measure that he said would help deter crime.
“Given the crime wave we’re facing, we’re gone to Parliament, and, for some un-bemoaned reason, the opposition is opposed to it,” he said, hoping, however, that independent senators will support the bill.
But, in view of the challenges facing Trinidad and Tobago, Rowley said “the ship of state sails caringly and responsibly.
“Our responsibility is to empower our people, particularly our young people,” he said.
“So far, we view Brooklyn as part of the Caribbean,” he added. “And, if I may, we’re in this together — unwavering together.”
Speaking under the theme, “Making a Difference,” Rowley told “the young people of the Caribbean Diaspora” that “the new world order is for you to enjoy.”
“The sky is the limit,” he said. “I urge you to take the opportunity. Make the difference and follow your dream.”
Rowley told Sharmony Gibson – of Jamaican roots, a business major at Medgar Evers College, who earlier received the International Education Student Award and who had visited Japan and Italy, and plans to tour Africa — to “come to Trinidad and Tobago.”
“We love you, we’re very proud of you, and we’ll always claim you as our own,” he then turned to the audience, who reciprocated with a standing ovation.
In introducing Dr. Rowley, Dr. Sheilah Paul, associate dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education at Medgar Evers College, who, like Rowley, was born in Trinidad’s sister isle, Tobago, said the prime minister “personifies success and does so in very humble circumstances.”
She noted that, with the PNM’s victory in the Sept. 7, 2015 general elections in Trinidad and Tobago, “came more challenges.”
She, however, said Rowley is committed to guiding Trinidad and Tobago “through crises.
“We’re all aware of the tremendous responsibility that Dr. Rowley has,” Dr. Paul said.
Rowley told the audience that he had arrived earlier on Thursday afternoon from Washington, where he attended the Council of the Americas’46th Annual Washington Conference of the Americas / US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit.
He said he was also among Caribbean leaders and delegates, who on Thursday held discussions with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden on a “lot if issues,” including bilateral trade, crime and lawlessness.
“These discussions will be on-going, as we seek to discuss common ground,” Rowley said.
Tuesday night, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry identified what he regarded as three priority areas in which the Obama administration would like the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean to grow and thrive.
In addressing the Council of the Americas’46th Annual Washington Conference of the Americas / US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit Reception, Kerry said these areas are trade, supporting entrepreneurs and innovators, and promoting accountability and transparency in government institutions.
“The fact is that, if we want the economies of Latin America and of the Caribbean to grow and thrive tomorrow, then we’re going to have to make the right choices now, today, tomorrow,” Kerry told the reception in Washington that included regional prime ministers and representatives.
Among the attendees were Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica and Dr. Rowley “who are both making their first official trip to Washington in those capacities,” Kerry said.