People’s Partnership sources yesterday described the move as a “shake-up” of the PM’s team, with several ministers—including Labour, Legal Affairs and Attorney-General—remaining untouched, but others being “realigned.” Persad-Bissessar said at the PP’s May 24 anniversary rally in Chaguanas that she would call in her ministers to conduct performance appraisals.
She said she would then “reconfigure” her Cabinet. She had also said a review of the performance of chairmen of state boards would be done. Asked about the long-awaited announcement at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Rambachan could not say whether it was his last day holding the dual portfolios of Foreign Affairs and Communication. “The Prime Minister is going to make an announcement on Friday evening on her decision with respect to the reshuffling of the Cabinet,” Rambachan said.
He said, however, he did not know if the expected announcement would be made at press conference. PP officials said the announcement may be made after today’s sitting of the Senate which starts at 1.30 pm and is expected to conclude by 4.30 pm.
A PP official said the Prime Minister will be meeting individually with all of her team members around 4.30 pm to inform them of her decision where each is concerned. While the venue for the announcement was still being finalised yesterday, the official said this might be done at her office in the Parliament at the International Waterfront Centre on Wrightson Road, since senators who are ministers would be there for the afternoon’s session.
The source said the PM’s announcement of her changes to the national community would come in an address later on. Another source said it would be around 6.30 pm and likely to be televised. Since the PM’s announcement of a performance review, there has been speculation about changes in several ministries including Finance/Economy, National Security, Social Development, among others, including the possible splitting of the Foreign Affairs and Communication portfolios and other mega-ministries.
Out of the 27 ministries, there are nine which have double or triple portfolios. PP sources hinted the PM will introduce several new faces. COP officials are hoping that this may include at least one of their top officials. Sources also said Labour Minister Errol McLeod is likely to remain since the trade union sector is “rumbling” and also since the Movement for Social Justice’s issue is still simmering.
The sources also said the portfolios of COP leader Prakash Ramadhar (Legal Affairs), Kevin Ramnarine (Energy) and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan are safe.
They said whatever changes are made will be in the context of reinforcing the Government’s resources in terms of what needs to be done in the two crucial areas of crime and the economy, particularly since the latter is now suffering the effects of global financial woes.
The sources also noted that the price of oil on the world market has slipped to below US$80 a barrel this week for the first time in several months. They said this presents challenges of its own which would require specialised handling. “Hopefully, the changes to the Cabinet will settle and flow smoothly since the situation for the country may require hard decisions ahead,” the sources said.
PP officials revealed that the Prime Minister, at yesterday’s Cabinet session, did not tell ministers anything of her decisions on the reshuffle and the matter of reconfiguring the team was not alluded to in any way. Yesterday’s Cabinet session was also reported to have been shorter than usual. Several ministers said while there were the usual Cabinet notes to peruse, “things went a little fast.” PP Cabinet sessions have been known to run for an entire day. The weekly post-Cabinet media briefing was called for 1.30 pm, but it has usually been held later in recent months. PP sources said the reason for the shorter Cabinet session was that “everything has now been settled.” Whatever changes are made to the Cabinet will be the second in as many years of the five-year PP term which started in 2010. The last Cabinet reshuffle, in July 2011, was done on a Sunday. On why the PM was choosing to announce her decision on a Friday evening, a PP minister said yesterday: “Maybe she’s giving people a chance to pack up and clear their office over the weekend.” After yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, Health Minister Fuad Khan, when asked if he thought he may still have the portfolio tomorrow replied: “Politics is flux. Nothing is constant. Day by day it changes and when the Prime Minister has to do what she has to, she will. “People will just have to accept it and move on. Whatever the game of life deals you politically, you have no control of the cards dealt to you. You just have to learn to play with them.”