Indian-origin woman is Leader of Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 26, 2010 04:49 hrs

Port-of-Spain: Indian-origin Kamla Persad-Bissessar has became the first woman Leader of the Opposition in the Trinidad and Tobago parliament, ousting former premier Basdeo Panday from the post.

Kamla was administered the oath of office here Thursday by President George Maxwell Richards at the president's house amidst loud cheers from the seven MPs, who supported her to oust incumbent Basdeo Panday.

Panday had been Leader of the Opposition for almost 34 years, minus the six years he was prime minister. 

Kamla's ascent to the position follows elections within the opposition United National Congress (UNC) party Jan 24 when she beat her political mentor Panday ten to one in the UNC's national elections to choose a new leader and executive. 

She emerged leader much to the dismay of Panday who had set the machinery for the vote himself, but did not accept the result.

Kamla entered politics in the early 1980s when she became an alderman in the then St. Patrick County Council. She has served as a senator and then as member of parliament for Siparia. 

In 1995, she became the country's first woman attorney general when Panday formed the government and later became minister of education. She was also the first woman to act as prime minister.

Kamla became Leader of the Opposition in parliament by getting eight votes -- including herself -- out of the 15 MPs of the party.

Kamla has visited India on several occasions, attending the Pravasi Bharatiya conference in Hyderabad in 2006 and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meetings.

Her forefathers were among 148,000 people who came from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar between 1845 to 1917 to work on sugar plantations here. 

More from Sify: