Kamla Persad-Bissessar

The Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC MP (pronounced [kəməlɑː prəsɑːd̪ə-biseːsərə] (listen); born 22 April 1952[5]), often referred to by her initials KPB, is a Trinidadian and Tobagonian lawyer and politician who is the Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago, political leader of the United National Congress and was the sixth Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago from the 26th of May 2010 till the 9th of September 2015. She was the country's first female Prime Minister, Attorney General, and Leader of the Opposition,[6][7] the first woman to chair the Commonwealth of Nations[8] and the first woman of Indian origin to be a prime minister of a country outside of India and the wider South Asian region.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar

11th, 13th, and 15th Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago
Assumed office
21 September 2015
Prime MinisterKeith Rowley
Preceded byKeith Rowley
In office
25 February 2010  25 May 2010
PresidentGeorge Maxwell Richards
Prime MinisterPatrick Manning
Preceded byBasdeo Panday
Succeeded byKeith Rowley
In office
26 April 2006  8 November 2007
PresidentGeorge Maxwell Richards
Prime MinisterPatrick Manning
Preceded byBasdeo Panday
Succeeded byBasdeo Panday
4th Political Leader of the United National Congress
Assumed office
24 January 2010
Preceded by
  • Basdeo Panday
6th Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
In office
26 May 2010  9 September 2015
Preceded byPatrick Manning
Succeeded byKeith Rowley
Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago
In office
5 October 2001  24 December 2001
Prime MinisterBasdeo Panday
Preceded byRamesh Maharaj
Succeeded byGlenda Morean
In office
27 November 1995  2 February 1996
Prime MinisterBasdeo Panday
Preceded byKeith Sobion
Succeeded byRamesh Maharaj
Minister of Education of Trinidad and Tobago
In office
22 October 1999  4 October 2001
Prime MinisterBasdeo Panday
Preceded byAdesh Nanan
Succeeded byGanga Singh
Member of Parliament
for Siparia
Assumed office
6 November 1995
Preceded bySahid Hosein
Majority10,141 (51.6%)
Opposition Member of the Senate of Trinidad and Tobago
In office
1 November 1994  6 October 1995
Alderwoman for the Saint Patrick County Council
In office
Personal details
Kamla Persad

(1952-04-22) 22 April 1952 (age 69)
Siparia, Trinidad and Tobago[1]
CitizenshipTrinidadian and Tobagonian
NationalityTrinidadian and Tobagonian
Political partyUnited National Congress (1994-present)
Other political
Gregory Bissessar
(m. 1971)
ChildrenKris Bissessar
MotherRita Persad
FatherRaj Persad
ResidencePhilippine, Penal–Debe, Trinidad and Tobago[3][4]
Alma mater

Persad-Bissessar became political leader of the UNC in 2010.[9] In 2011, Persad-Bissessar was named the thirteenth most influential female leader around the world by Time magazine.[10]

Early life and ancestry

Kamla Persad-Bissessar was born in Siparia[1] in southern Trinidad to Raj and Rita Persad, both of Indian descent.[11][12] Her paternal grandparents were Soomintra Persad (née Gopaulsingh) and Choranji Persad, and her maternal grandparents were Rookmin and Ramprit.[13] She has three sisters, her eldest sister is deceased and her other two sisters are Vidwatie and Sally.[14][15][16]

She was born into a Brahmin Hindu Indian family.[11] Her ancestors emigrated in the 1880s from India to Trinidad through the Indian indenture system. Her maternal great-grandparents (her maternal grandmother's parents) were Sumaria and Seepersad who were from India. Sumaria was from present-day Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India and had left India from the Madras Port.[13] 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 at Boodhoo Trace in the town of Penal in southern Trinidad. In 2012, Persad-Bissessar visited her paternal great-grandfather's village on a state visit to India.[17]

Persad-Bissessar spent her early childhood living with her parents and paternal grandparents in Penal, where she attended the Mohess Road Hindu School. In 1959, at the age of seven, her family moved to Siparia where she attended the Erin Road Presbyterian Primary School, and later the Siparia Union Presbyterian Primary School. In 1963, she was accepted to Iere High School in Siparia, a new co-ed school at the time. There she was a top debating student, champion badminton and netball player, and she excelled in her classes and was put into special classes to write the GCE O Levels in 1966. She graduated in 1969.[13]

When Persad-Bissessar was sixteen, she wanted to go to the United Kingdom to further her studies, but her traditional father and uncles insisted she stayed in Trinidad and Tobago. However, her mother eventually convinced them to send her.[11][13] Persad-Bissessar then left Trinidad at the age of seventeen, in August of 1969, to attended Norwood Technical College in West Norwood, London, England.[13] While in college in England, she worked as a social worker with the Church of England's Children’s Society of London.

By the time she left Trinidad she had already met her future husband Gregory Bisessar and he was already in England when she was attending college. They married two years later in 1971, when she was eighteen and he was twenty-two. They later left England for Jamaica, where they spent fourteen years.[18] In Jamaica she taught at St Andrew High School in Kingston and at the University of the West Indies in Mona, and she was also a consultant lecturer at the Jamaica College of Insurance.[19] Persad-Bissessar also attended the University of the West Indies and the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago. 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.[20]

Political career

In 1987 Persad-Bissessar entered politics serving as an alderwoman on the Saint Patrick County Council till 1991. She then became an opposition senator from 1994 till 1995. Persad-Bissessar then became a Member of Parliament for the Siparia constituency in 1995 and has been ever since. 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.[21] The position of Leader of the Opposition was declared vacant by President George Maxwell Richards[22] after Basdeo Panday was convicted of failing to make an accurate declaration to the Integrity Commission concerning a bank account held in London.[23] Persad-Bissessar was subsequently appointed Leader of the Opposition on 26 April 2006.[citation needed]

Political leader

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.[citation needed]

Prime Minister

Persad-Bissessar; March 2011

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. In the 2020 general election, the People's National Movement won re-election and Persad-Bissessar remained the Leader of the Opposition. However, the United National Congress did pick up two more seats than previously held.


Kamla receives Samman from Pratibha Patil, the President of India.
YearCountryAward NameGiven byField of Merit
2012 IndiaPravasi Bharatiya SammanPresident of IndiaPublic Services

Personal life

Persad-Bissessar married to Dr. Gregory Bissessar in 1971 and they one son named Kris Bissessar.[24] 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."[25] She had raised her brother's children after he died in a car accident.[26]


  1. "Kamla Persad-Bissessar". Columbia University World Leaders Forum. Archived from the original on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  2. https://www.nationnews.com/2010/06/11/meet-t-and-t-pm-kamla/
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 August 2017. Retrieved 14 August 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. [dead link]
  5. Sookraj, Radhica (26 May 2010). "Kamla came from humble beginnings". Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) PNM lose to Peoples Partnership in Trinidad elections 2010]. Ttgapers.com 24 May 2010.
  7. Skard, Torild (2014) "Kamla Persad-Bissessar" in Women of power – half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, Bristol: Policy Press ISBN 978-1-44731-578-0, pp. 271–3
  8. "Kamla makes call for keener focus on women". The Trinidad Guardian Newspaper. 13 March 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  9. [permanent dead link]
  10. "Top Female Leaders Around the World - TIME". TIME.com. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  11. author, Nation News (11 June 2010). "Meet T and T PM, Kamla". Nationnews.com. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  12. "Penal businessmen to work with Kamla". Guardian.co.tt. Archived from the original on 8 November 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  13. "Kamla Persad Bissessar". Facebook.com. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  14. https://www.nationnews.com/2010/06/11/meet-t-and-t-pm-kamla/
  15. "Kamla's sister paid $868,258". Trinidad and Tobago Newsday Archives. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  16. "PM returns home after visiting her ailing sister in New York - Trinidad and Tobago Government News". News.gov.tt. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  17. "Trinidad's 'daughter PM' returns to village in Bihar for an emotional reunion". The Times of India. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  18. https://www.nationnews.com/2010/06/11/meet-t-and-t-pm-kamla/
  19. "Trinidad and Tobago Parliament". Ttparliament.org. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  20. "Trinidad and Tobago Parliament". Ttparliament.org. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  21. Lord, Richard. 2006. "Leader Kamla: President's move forces UNC crisis decision" Archived 28 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Trinidad Express, 26 April 2006.
  22. "Lawyers criticise Max for declaring vacancy" Archived 28 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine, Trinidad Express, 26 April 2006.
  23. Cummings, Stephen (16 January 2006). "Trinidad's opposition leader set to go on trial". Caribbean Net News. Archived from the original on 3 February 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2007.
  24. House of Representatives: Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago. Ttparliament.org. Retrieved on 2012-04-26.
  25. Meet T and T PM, Kamla Archived 8 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine NationNews Barbados, June 2010.
  26. Adams, William Lee (16 September 2011). "Top Female Leaders Around the World". Time. Retrieved 25 March 2019.