COREY CONNELLY AND LAUREL WILLIAMS
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath believes Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene McDonald should not have been brought back into the Government, purely on moral grounds.
Speaking to Sunday Newsday, Ragoonath said there was a moral element to the ongoing Calabar Foundation investigation, involving McDonald, which Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley may have overlooked in his decision to re-appoint her as a junior minister.
Ragoonath said when Rowley had appointed her as public utilities minister, he showed he did not care about the allegations against her.
“And that, in itself, tells us where the Prime Minister’s head is on this one. So, I do not think that if there are such allegations against her, the mere fact that the police are dragging their feet, the Prime Minister is on solid ground to say there are no charges against her, so from that perspective he could hire her.
“But, I believe, morally, there is something amiss here and I think there is where I have concerns about her.”
McDonald, a deputy PNM political leader, was sworn in as a junior minister in the Ministry of Public Administration on Thursday during a simple ceremony at President’s House, St Ann’s.
It was her third ministerial appointment since the PNM assumed office after winning the September 2015 general election.
She was first appointed as housing minister but was fired months later, pending investigations by the Integrity Commission and police into alleged misconduct.
Last year, she was rehired her as public utilities minister but then fired again because of her decision to invite Cedric Burke – an activist in her constituency suspected of being a gang member – to her swearing-in ceremony.
Ragoonath could not say if McDonald’s ministerial reappointment was intended to reinforce the party’s position in the Lower House.
However, he said the move could have been taken at face value.
“The Prime Minister has limited options available to him. Adrian Leonce (Laventille East/Morvant MP) is the only person that does not hold a portfolio at this point in time in the Parliament.
He said McDonald would have been seen by Rowley as more experienced than Leonce when the Prime Minister considered his options.
“Marlene is an elected MP and if he has to get another minister who has to come in from the Senate, then he has to fire one of his senators to bring in a new minister.”
Rowley, meanwhile, has defended his decision to reappoint McDonald.
During a tour of Bamboo Village, Cedros, which has been severely affected by coastal erosion, he told reporters: “She is appointed to do a job and I think she can do a good job of it.”
Asked if anything had changed between her last and current appointment to the Cabinet, he said: “A lot. In her last outing, there were some lack of judgement and we all deserve to get second chances. I think she understands when a Prime Minister has to do certain things.”
Rowley said McDonald was a very good representative.
“She is experienced and she is hard-working and I am sure she will do very well for her community and the nation.”
Asked if he was concerned about any backlash for reappointing her, Rowley said: “There would always be those. There are virtually no actions you can take as a government, as a prime minister, that would be met with the approval of everybody.
“We have 1.3 million people in this country and it is likely to get a million different views. But once we are reasonable with our decision-making, I expect the majority of right-thinking people would support the decisions we make.”