The Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar PBS SC MP (born 22 April 1952) is a Trinidadian and Tobagonian lawyer and politician who was the seventh Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago from 26 May 2010 to 9 September 2015. She was the country's first female Prime Minister, Attorney General, and Leader of the Opposition. She is also the first woman of Indian origin to be a prime minister of a country outside of India and other South Asian countries.
Persad-Bissessar is the political leader of the United National Congress (UNC) and is the current leader of the opposition of the People's Partnership coalition in the eleventh parliament, a coalition of three parties, which was formed to contest the general election of 24 May 2010. She became political leader of the UNC in 2010. In 2011, Persad-Bissessar was named the thirteenth most influential female leader around the world by Time magazine.
Early life and ancestry
Kamla Persad-Bissessar was born in Siparia in southern Trinidad to Raj and Rita Persad, both of Indian descent. Her paternal grandparents were Soomintra Gopaulsingh and Choranji Persad, and her maternal grandparents were Rookmin and Ramprit. She has two sisters: Vidwatie and Sally. She was born into a Hindu Brahmin family. Her ancestors emigrated from India to Trinidad under the Indian indenture system. Her maternal great-grandparents (her maternal grandmother’s parents) were Sumaria and Seepersad who were from India. Sumaria had left India from the Madras Port. Her paternal great-grandparents (her paternal grandfather’s parents) were Pundit Ram Lakhan Mishra and Ganga Mishra who were from India. Pundit Ram Lakhan Mishra was from Bhelupur, Bihar, India. After indentureship, Pundit Ram Lakhan and Ganga Mishra had settled in Boodhoo Trace in Penal in southern Trinidad. In 2012, Persad-Bissessar visited her paternal great-grandfather's village on a state visit to India. When Persad-Bissessar was sixteen she wanted to go to the United Kingdom to study, but her traditional father and uncles insisted she stayed in Trinidad and Tobago, however, her mother eventually convinced them to send her. Persad-Bissessar attended the University of the West Indies, Norwood Technical College (England), and the Hugh Wooding Law School. She was awarded a B.A. (Hons.), a Diploma in Education, a B.A. of Laws (Hons.) and a Legal Education Certificate. In 2006 she obtained an Executive Masters in Business Administration (EMBA) from the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, Trinidad.
Persad-Bissessar has served as Member of Parliament for the Siparia constituency since 1995. She served as Attorney General in 1995 until Ramesh Maharaj was able to disassociate himself from ongoing cases and again in 2001 after Maharaj left the party. When the UNC formed Government on 22 December 2000, she was sworn in as the Minister of Education.
On 25 April 2006 she received the support of the majority of Opposition MPs for the post of Leader of the Opposition. The position of Leader of the Opposition was declared vacant by President George Maxwell Richards after Basdeo Panday was convicted of failing to make an accurate declaration to the Integrity Commission concerning a bank account held in London. Persad-Bissessar was subsequently appointed Leader of the Opposition on 26 April 2006.
On 24 January 2010, Kamla Persad-Bissessar was elected political leader of the UNC, emerging victorious over the party's founder, Basdeo Panday. She was formally appointed opposition leader on 25 February 2010, having gained the support of a majority of UNC MPs.
Persad-Bissessar took office as Prime Minister after the victory of the People's Partnership in the general election of 24 May 2010, defeating the previous government of the People's National Movement, which had called an early election. She was the first female prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and is also the first female Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office. She was succeeded as Chairperson-in-Office by Julia Gillard with the opening of the 2011 CHOGM on 28 October 2011.
Leader of the Opposition
On September 21, 2015, Mrs. Persad-Bissessar was appointed leader of the opposition by president Anthony Carmona after her party was defeated at the polls, following the September 7, 2015 general elections. The People's National Movement led by Dr. Keith Rowley secured 23 out of 41 seats to form the government, while the People's Partnership coalition led by Persad-Bissessar secured 18 out of the 41 seats in the House of Representatives to form the opposition.
|Year||Country||Award Name||Given by||Field of Merit|
|2012||India||Pravasi Bharatiya Samman||President of India||Public Services|
Persad-Bissessar is married to Dr. Gregory Bissessar and has one son named Kris Bissessar. She says, "I am baptised in the Baptist faith. I have no specific church as such. I am of both the Hindu and the Baptist faiths." She had raised her brother’s children after he died in a car accident.