Persad-Bissessar out of touch, says Heliconia Foundation

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Kamla Persad-Bissessar

The Heliconia Foundation for Young Professionals has called the Opposition Leader an “out-of-touch leader of the past.”

A statement from the foundation on Tuesday addressed comments made by Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Monday night’s UNC virtual report, when she accused the foundation of advertising “land-grabbing” consultations with Wallerfield farmers.

In her speech, Persad-Bissessar displayed a Photoshopped version of a flyer issued by the foundation advertising land tenure consultations with Wallerfield farmers on May 14 at the Solomon Remple Church, Tractor Pool Road. The flyer also indicated the consultation would be led by MP for La Horquetta/Talparo Foster Cummings, MP for Arima Pennelope Beckles and president of the Heliconia Foundation Farai Hove Masaisai.

The doctored image shown by Persad-Bissessar was instead worded “How to land-grab and get away with it.”

“How can you seriously put the name of what it is you are going to do?” she said as she gestured to the flyer. She called the venture shameful and disgraceful and said Cummings and Beckles were unqualified to be a part of the consultation.

“Those two ministers have nothing to do with land. Where is Kazim (Hosein)?”

Hosein was appointed Minister of Agriculture on March 16.

In the statement, Haliconia condemned Persad-Bissessar’s comments.

“While the leader of the opposition may still hold the view that this meaningful and necessary service to the Wallerfield community is ‘shameful’ and ‘disgraceful’ as she leads from her ivory tower in Philippine; the Heliconia Foundation assures the Wallerfield farmers that we see you, we hear you, we understand the challenges faced and how they impact you and we are here together with your MPs to provide support and guidance.”

It said many farmers within the community have been clamouring for help with long-standing tenure issues and it hopes to provide some relief to them with the consultation with the MPs.

“At these consultations, the foundation will offer the services of its adept and experienced team of attorneys and licensed land surveyors to the farmers…free of charge.”

The consultations will be held from 10 am-4 pm.

The statement said the foundation feels fortunate that the farming community of Wallerfield falls under the remit of Beckles and Cummings, who were willing to collaborate on the project. It said it is collaborating with other stakeholders including the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries.

It said Persad-Bissessar was “disingenuous” to question why Beckles and Cummings would be present at a consultation in their own constituencies. “Sound representation demands nothing less of them.”

It also said, “In a time where global leaders are calling for unity in the war against disinformation, it is disturbing that (Persad-Bissessar) would use her platform and influence to promote what was indeed a Photoshopped picture and would lack the courage to apologise and admit that she had erred.”