Manning cemented his promise on the hustings and at Wednesday’s historic swearing-in at Woodford Square on Wednesday to shatter the glass ceiling for the nation’s women by appointing eight of the 11, to full Cabinet portfolios.
Chief among them is the appointment of new Senator (Sen) Brigid Annisette George to Attorney General. Member of Parliament (MP) Karen Nunez-Tesheira controls the key portfolio of Finance Minister while MP Esther Le Gendre replaces Manning’s wife Hazel as Education Minister, with Mrs Manning who is a Senator, now taking control of the Ministry of Local Government. MP Christine Kangaloo is the new Science, Technology and Tertiary Minister, MP Paula Gopee-Scoon is Foreign Affairs Minister, MP Marlene Mac Donald is the Community Development, Gender Affairs and Culture Minister and (Sen) Emily Gaynor Dick-Forde is the new Planning, Housing and Environment Minister. Manning’s election campaign manager Tina Gronlund Nunez was made a Senator and also Minister of State in the Ministry of Planning, Housing and the Environment, MP Donna Cox is Minister of State in the Community Development Ministry and MP Alicia Hospedales is Minister of State in the Social Development Ministry.
President George Maxwell Richards presided over the swearing-in of ten of the 16 Senators at President’s House, St Ann’s yesterday along with 23 Ministers of Government and five Parliamentary Secretaries, as the new government prepares to take office for the next five years, on November 19.
Manning also revealed that his newly constituted Cabinet and in fact all 41 members of his team, will be going on a five-day retreat at Salybia Resort in East Trinidad on Sunday. He called it: “A week of residential training for all members of Parliament” and added it was: “Necessary, since we have so many new ministers.” He added that on Monday November 19, his government will take up office and Cabinet will meet for the first time at 9 am that day, during which all ministers will be briefed as to what are the rules by which Cabinet operates.
“Then they will meet with their respective permanent secretaries and then go to office,” he said.
But even as yesterday was a red-letter day for PNM women, there were some glaring absences including former Junior Minister of Finance Senator Christine Sahadeo, former Public Utilities Minister Pennelope Beckles, who retained her seat as MP for Arima in Monday’s General Election and former Minister of Community Development confidante and aide to the Prime Minister, Senator Joan Yuille-Williams.
Manning said there would be no change to the current Speaker of the House Barry Sinanan and said Beckles will hold the new portfolio of Deputy House Speaker. “It’s a new government we are putting together and what we face in Parliament is a very experienced Opposition. We have to put the best face on it and we need a Deputy Speaker who has experience and skill and that is where Miss Beckles will fit in. That is where she is going to serve,” Manning said.
According to Manning, Yuille-Williams “is pretty advanced in age” and has now decided to move on. He confirmed that she is moving out of Government entirely. He defended his appointment of Annisette George as Attorney General dismissing claims that her lack of experience will be a hindrance to her performance.
“She has been at the bar for about 25 years and is quite experienced. Also she has been a member of the PNM and member of the Central Executive of the party, as well as having served as chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, so she has political experience as well. So she is not new,” he said.
Manning said he believes he has achieved the diversity of skills required in his Cabinet.
He pointed to the appointment of eight women in his Cabinet and added that there should have been nine but former Finance Minister Christine Sahadeo had “turned down the offer that was made to her.” He assured however there is still a place for her because of her wealth of experience in the Ministry of Finance in particular. Yesterday, Sahadeo confirmed that she had declined the ministerial appointment offered to her by Manning.
She said, “I decided to serve one term.” Asked if she was returning to the private sector, Sahadeo said, she had received some offers and was considering them.
Manning also explained that government has placed greater emphasis on the Ministry of Information and had decided to split it a way from the Public Administration Ministry and to appoint its own Minister Neil Parsanlal to that portfolio. Responding as well to concerns about another green horn in the Ministry of Finance, Karen Nunez-Tesheira, who will not have the support of other Ministers as obtained in the last administration, Manning pointed to his own inexperience when he first assumed that portfolio
“Well, when I became Minister of Finance, I had no experience.