DONNA COX was sworn in yesterday as Minister of Communications by President Paula-Mae Weekes in a brief ceremony at President’s House also attended by the Prime Minister and outgoing Government Senator Foster Cummings, who vacates his seat for her.
This is the first time that the former two-term elected MP has joined Cabinet, being a former minister of state in the community development and national security ministries respectively.
Smiling broadly and sporting a bright red dress, she told reporters she would use her communication skills to project the Government’s achievements in the run-up to the upcoming local and general elections. Cox takes over this portfolio from Stuart Young, who remains Minister of National Security and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.
“I was informed about coming back, I recall, about two months ago,” she related. “So actually it was not a last-minute decision. I had to make arrangements because my mum was with me, so I had to make arrangements to bring her back. So I am here now.”
She said Dr Rowley had simply said he wanted her back in TT, but had not said for what job.
“I had been posted at the consulate in New York as the consul in charge of public affairs and culture, doing work with the diaspora, promoting TT – tourism, trade, public affairs – and just strengthening the relationships with the diaspora.
“When I was told to return, it wasn’t that I was told exactly where I was going. I know the Prime Minister would have utilised my skills in some way, but I wasn’t sure exactly where.”
What will be her first order of business?
“From here, I’m going straight to the ministry, just to understand what is happening and what’s new and the persons there, what they do. From there, it’s really to promote...
“What I observe is that, looking in from the outside, a lot has been happening, but people (are) not aware of what is taking place in some of the ministries.
"So I know that this is important. You hear comments being made: ‘We spending so much money here and there,’ but yet they don’t have the information. So...I’m going to try to get that information out, as much as possible.”
Had Young neglected his communications role because of the burden of his other portfolios?
“I think he gave it attention. My background is public relations and communications basically. I feel that even what is happening now in the country, we have to specialise in different areas to get the job done properly.”
Will the change help Young focus more on national security?
“Well, you know national security is not an easy ministry. I see now how enormous that ministry is. I was minister of state and handled part of the portfolio of that ministry, and it was heavy. So I know that it is indeed a heavy ministry and given what is happening in the country today, of course focus must be placed on national security.”
Pressed on whether her appointment was made to ease up Young, she replied, “You’ll have to ask the Prime Minister that.”
Asked if she had been given a role in the 2020 general election, she replied, “No, no, no. I’m taking it one day at a time.”
Cox was elected Laventille East/Morvant MP in 2007, as part of the Patrick Manning government’s new wave of MPs, replacing Fitzgerald Hinds. Under Manning from 2007 she served in the non-Cabinet post of Minister of State in the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, and in 2008 was appointed to a similar role in the Ministry of National Security.
She was re-elected in the 2010 snap election, as an Opposition MP to the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government. In the 2015 election, the PNM, then under Keith Rowley, replaced her with current MP Adrian Leonce.