“These changes, in which some ministers will be reassigned to new responsibilities, are by no means a reflection on their competence, rather a more effective alignment of competencies to posts where they will be more effective,” Persad-Bissessar said in an address to the nation following the reshuffling.
With the Ministry of Works and Transport split, embattled Jack Warner will keep responsibility for works, while former chairman of the Public Transport Service Corporation, Devant Maharaj, will be appointed as a senator and sworn-in to head the newly created Ministry of Transport. Maharaj will have responsibility for civil aviation matters, including Caribbean Airlines (CAL), the Airport Authority, Air Transport Licensing Authority, as well as the Port Authority, and Licensing Authority. Warner will handle issues related to roads, bridges, drains, highways in the twin-island republic.
There had been calls for Warner to be removed from the Cabinet after FIFA announced it had launched an investigation into bribery allegations against him and another executive member of football’s world governing body, Mohamed bin Hammam.
The reduction in his portfolio comes a week after he resigned from his FIFA posts, saying that he wanted to focus on his role as a minister in the government and as chairman of the United National Congress (UNC), the major party in the People’s Partnership government.
The man who takes over half his portfolio, along with Verna St. Rose-Greaves, Terrence Baynes and Nicole Dyer-Griffith – wife of the Prime Minister’s security advisor Gary Griffith – replace Subhas Panday, Patrick Watson, Rudrawatee Nan Ramgoolam and Therese Baptiste-Cornelis in the Senate.
Axed from the Cabinet are Baptiste-Cornelis who was Minister of Health, and Ramgoolam who was stripped of the Ministry of Public Administration. Although the prime minister did not announce it, there are reports that the two have been offered diplomatic positions – Baptiste-Cornelis as consul-general in Geneva, Switzerland and Ramlogan in New York.
The new Minister of Health will be Dr. Fuad Khan – who will be replaced as deputy House Speaker by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Legal Affairs Jairam Seemungal – while former Energy and Energy Affairs Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan will head the Ministry of Public Administration. Seepersad-Bachan’s former ministry goes to Kevin Ramnarine, who had been Parliamentary Secretary in that ministry.
Colin Partap, who had been attached to the Office of the Prime Minister, is now junior minister in the Ministry of National Security, replacing Panday, brother of former prime minister Basdeo Panday. Panday had been Senate Leader but that position will now be held by current senator Emmanuel George.
The Prime Minister has added a new Ministry of Communications to the responsibilities of Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Suruj Rambachan. Dyer-Griffith will be appointed parliamentary secretary in that ministry.
Agriculture Minister Vasant Bharath also gets responsibility for Forestry from Roodal Moonilal’s Housing Ministry, and Marine Affairs from Works. The new Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development will be led by St. Rose-Greaves, with Ramona Ramdial being junior minister.
Additionally, Dr Delmon Baker moves from being a Minister in the Ministry of Tourism to the Ministry of Finance; junior Labour Minister Rudy Indarsingh and Arts junior minister Nela Khan were both shifted to Local Government as Minister and Parliamentary Secretary, respectively; and Senator Embau Moheni has been placed in Arts and Multiculturalism.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, in explaining the reason for the changes, said it was obvious that certain ministries had responsibilities which were not in keeping with their core business. She noted that when her Cabinet was formed in May 2010, “very few of my Ministers had the benefit of serving in Government and in Cabinet or had done so a long time ago”.
Persad-Bissessar said that despite that, “the consensus by way of our achievements is that we have done well in our first year”.
“We are aware, however, of the need to do better,” she added. “We know that you expect more.”
Reports indicate that the Congress of the People (COP), which is part of the coalition government, is not happy with the reshuffle as it affects some of its members.
(Parts of this article were written with content submitted in a Caribbean360 publication)