By Andre Bagoo Saturday, June 23 2012
FAR FROM announcing a “reconfiguration”, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night announced a shake-up of the Cabinet, changing the key portfolios governing finance and national security in a reshuffle which involves the introduction of five new faces to the Cabinet, the outright removal of two ministers and the introduction of several new portfolios.
“There are new faces in the Cabinet and major shifts in responsibilities and portfolios as I sought to get the most out of the best fit possible,” Persad-Bissessar said at a briefing at Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s last night.
On Monday, President George Maxwell-Richards will be called upon to swear in a new Minister of Finance and Economy, Larry Howai, and a new Minister of National Security, Jack Warner.
Howai, the former CEO of State-owned First Citizens Bank, will replace Winston Dookeran, who, in a move which will be interpreted by some as a demotion, has been moved to the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Dookeran’s departure from the Finance Ministry will possibly be regarded as a blow to the Congress of the People (COP). He walked away from the post of COP leadership last year largely in order to focus on his duties as Finance Minister. The new finance ministry has a new title, Ministry of Finance and the Economy, and will take up full responsibility for the controversial state entity Caribbean Airlines Limited. Previously the airline fell under the Ministry of Transport.
Warner, the outgoing Minister of Works and Infrastructure, will replace retired Brigadier John Sandy who has accepted a diplomatic posting, Persad-Bissessar said last night. The issue of crime, and in particular the state of emergency last year, have been key ones for the People’s Partnership coalition. A sombre-looking Sandy attended his last sitting of the Senate yesterday afternoon, hours before the Prime Minister’s announcement.
Amid the tragedy of her daughter’s death, UNC deputy political leader and San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray will take up the responsibility of a Cabinet post, serving as Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development. Coudray had been tipped for a Cabinet post since word broke that she had left the COP to contest the UNC internal elections earlier this year. The timing of Persad-Bissessar’s announcement of her reshuffle, and in particular several delays to the announcement, coincided with tragic developments in Jamaica where Coudray’s daughter Michelle Coudray-Greaves’ burnt body was discovered after she had gone missing.
Coudray held a wake at her daughter’s home in West Park, Cocoyea, San Fernando last night, ahead of today’s memorial service at Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church.
In a brief interview, Coudray confirmed she had been in discussions with the Prime Minister about a role in Government before her daughter’s murder.
Commenting the timing of her appointment and her personal tragedy, Coudray simply said, “It’s God’s work.”
She said she feels ably suited for the ministerial post.
“I feel passionately about children, this country could do a lot more for children,” she said, adding she had been working on a project to help street children, as well as a home for single mothers. She had been in discussions with Minister of the People and Social Development Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, now her Cabinet colleague, on finding a building for the home.
Coudray replaces Verna St Rose-Greaves, a controversial minister who presided over the forced detention of a worker at the Ministry of Gender, Cheryl Miller, at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital earlier this year. St Rose-Greaves at the time accepted responsibility for Miller’s detention which was found by a court to have been a violation of the law. St Rose-Greaves has also, recently, advocated strong views on a national gender policy document.
Coudray’s appointment also means a new Mayor of San Fernando has to be appointed. There was an uproar from the Congress of the People (COP), a member of the People’s Partnership, over her defection to the United National Congress since she had been appointed San Fernando Mayor while a member of the COP.
It is now likely the COP may have its wish, as the Deputy Mayor, Dr Navi Muradali, a COP member, may be appointed to the post. The Prime Minister also announced the political return of Ganga Singh, the WASA CEO, who is to serve as Minister of Environment and Water Resources. Singh was previously a Public Utilities Minister under the last UNC administration and presided over the Desalcott scandal, a matter which led to charges in the courts and allegations of corruption. Singh’s appointment as WASA CEO, came after a process which was criticised for lack of transparency.
Tobago Development Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, who weathered controversy over her State-issued credit-card use, has arguably been demoted to a Minister in the Ministry of the People.
Toppin is one of two members of the Tobago coalition partner Tobago Organisation for the People. The other member, Delmon Baker, will take up her old post, moving out of the Ministry of Finance where he was a junior minister.
The Prime Minister’s announcement did not touch upon the issue of State boards, however her appointments made clear that the Government will have to announce new CEOs for First Citizens, WASA and a new chairman for the National Gas Company (NGC) in coming days.
A brand new portfolio is to be created: the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration and it is to be led by Dr Clifton De Couteau, currently a Minister in the Ministry of Education.
There is a new Minister of Communication, which will now become an isolated portfolio. The new face is Jamal Mohammed, a former host of the Mastana Bahar and a member of the Mohammed family which has produced many political figures including Kamaluddin Mohammed, who served as PNM minister.
Devant Maharaj has been moved from the Ministry of Transport to head the Ministry of Food Production. The new Minister of Transport is to be Chandresh Sharma, previously of Local Government. Local Government will be led by Dr Suruj Rambachan, previously the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communication.
The new Minister of Public Utilities will be Nizam Baksh, formerly Minister of Community Development. The new Minister of Works and Infrastructure will be Emmanuel George.
Winston “Gypsy” Peters has been shifted from the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism to the Mnistry of Community Development. The new Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism is to be Dr Lincoln Douglas.
Stephen Cadiz, who has been Minister of Trade and Industry, will replace Dr Rupert Griffith as Minister of Tourism. Vasant Bharath, who has been the Minister of Food Production, will take up Cadiz’s old post at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The Deputy Speaker will be Nela Khan. The non-Cabinet post was previously held by Jairam Seemungal, who has been appointed a Minister in the Ministry of Food Production.
“The changes which I am about to announce in the Cabinet must deliver a level of competence and performance for an impatient and expectant population,” Persad-Bissessar said last night in a live address at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
“The changes made should not be seen for any one as an indictment on performance. Each member of my Cabinet has worked tirelessly in service to the nation and I am proud of their contribution.”
Of the new appointments, she said “there is no room for egos nor personal agendas. Every single appointment made by me has received the full support of those selected.”
Persad-Bissessar revealed that she has been quietly interviewing candidates and consulting with a wide range of stakeholders over the past weeks.
“On May 24th I signalled to the nation my intention to carry out a reconfiguration of the Cabinet. Since then I have met quietly with people from all sectors of society to gather views and opinions from the widest cross-section of the population as possible.”
“I have also interviewed and considered several candidates from within and outside of my Cabinet and evaluated several presentations. I have entertained discussions with the government’s strongest critics and most ardent supporters both of whom have helped provide me with broader perspectives. As someone once said, the best way to understand people is to listen to them. I have also sought wisdom and guidance through prayer and meditation.”
Asked by reporters if any minister lobbied her to leave the Cabinet, Persad-Bissessar said, “They all indicated they are team players and they are willing to serve in whatever portfolio as they would see it as an honour and privilege to serve in whatever position. So I have not had any dissention or any dissenting voice.”
NEW CABINET LINE-UP
Minister of National Security:
Jack Warner, MP
Minister in the Ministry of National Security:
Collin Partap, MP
Minister of Legal Affairs: Prakash Ramadhar, MP
Attorney General: Senator Anand Ramlogan
Minister of Finance & The Economy
(with responsibility for Caribbean Airlines): Larry Howai
Minister of the People and Social Development:
Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, MP
Minister in the Ministry of the People
and Social Development: Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, MP
Minister of Education:Dr Tim Gopeesingh, MP
Minister of Housing: Dr Roodal Moonilal, MP
Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development:
Minister of Justice: Herbert Volney, MP
Minister of Public Administration:
Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, MP
Minister of Energy: Senator Kevin Ramnarine
Minister of Labour & Small & Micro
Enterprise Development: Errol Mc Leod, MP
Minister of Transport: Chandresh Sharma, MP
Minister of Sport: Anil Roberts, MP
Minister of Planning: Senator Dr Bhoendradatt Tiwarie
Minister of Public Utilities: Nizam Baksh, MP
Minister of Tobago Development: Dr Delmon Baker, MP
Minister of Local Government:
Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, MP
Minister in the Ministry of Local Government:
Rudranath Indarsingh, MP
Minister of Works and Infrastructure:
Senator Emmanuel George
Minister in the Ministry of
Works and Infrastructure: Stacy Roopnarine, MP
Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism:
Dr Lincoln Douglas, MP
Minister of Health: Dr Fuad Khan MP
Minister of State in the Office of the
Prime Minister: Rodger Samuel, MP
Minister of Tertiary Education: Senator Fazal Karim
Minister of Tourism: Stephen Cadiz, MP
Minister of Community Development:
Winston Peters, MP
Minister of Food Production: Senator Devant Maharaj
Minister of State in the Ministry
of Food Production: Jairam Seemungal, MP
Minister of Science & Technology: Dr Rupert Griffith
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Winston Dookeran, MP
Minister of Trade, Industry & Investment:
Senator Vasant Bharath
Minister of the Environment & Water Resources:
Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment &
Water Resources: Ramona Ramdial, MP
Minister of National Diversity & Social Integration:
Clifton De Coteau
Minster in the Ministry of National
Diversity & Social Integration: Senator Embau Moheni
Minister of Communication: Jamal Mohammed
Deputy Speaker: Nela Khan, MP