Bold Cabinet shake-up
By ANDRE BAGOO Sunday, June 24 2012
ON FRIDAY, Ministers of Government took up most of the seats in the media room at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. The room was crowded. With the exception of some who had been demoted, many ministers opted to hear Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar deliver her announcement of her shake-up in person in their usual (and embarrassingly over-the-top) show of support. But many, quite literally, could not find a seat. One aide at the Office of the Prime Minister orchestrated a reshuffle of his own, telling the ministers, “If I could ask you to move one chair down?”
“It have a chair at the end here,” Emmanuel George, the new Minister of Works and Infrastructure, told one minister. “Rudy, come here nah.” The “Rudy” was Roodal Moonilal, who remains Housing Minister. He ended up sitting in a chair in the middle of a small aisle. Worried about this, he hesitated, saying,“Blocking the corridor might be against emergency regulations.” Though he retained his seat, he was good to think of this. Emergency exits do often happen with Cabinets.
After all the symbolism of this scene, Persad-Bissessar announced the boldest “reconfiguration” of her Cabinet yet. The two major portfolios of National Security and Finance and the Economy were dramatically shuffled with Jack Warner becoming Minister of National Security and Larry Howai Minister of Finance and the Economy.
Warner still has a cloud hanging over his head due to his abrupt resignation from FIFA last year amid a bribery scandal. There have been conflicting reports over whether the police are still investigating the matter. At the same time, Warner appears to be a man of “action”. I don’t know what this means, since all people are people of action if they are alive. And while there have been many, many media tours hosted by Warner, with pictures of him and Stacey Roopnarine pointing at things, I can’t really say for sure if our roads are any better today than they were in 2010.
That said, Warner has been described by many as results-oriented. If this is true, then this could be good for the Ministry of National Security, which spearheads the fight against crime. Unless, of course, the person who heads it is implicated in crime himself. The choice is, thus, bold and risky. It hints at the desperate need to try something new.
Howai, the current CEO of First Citizens, is not a professional politician, which might be refreshing. But the downgrading of COP founder Winston Dookeran is bold. While two other COP members were appointed to the Cabinet, their posts do not in any way carry the weight of the Finance Ministry. The introduction of Marlene Coudray as Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development was foreseeable, but could re-ignite old wounds. She replaces Verna St Rose Greaves, who presided over the Cheryl Miller scandal.
Overall, Persad-Bissessar risks the perception that she has fired ministers who were not good enough. She may say otherwise, but the moves open the Government up to critique on this basis. At the same time, the moves may also be interpreted as being responsive to concerns over the management of the country. It will also act as a warning to her ministers who will have to beware the sword of Damocles. The shake-up is a risk the Prime Minister clearly has determined is well worth taking.