Jack is Acting Prime Minister

Making the announcement at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair press secretary Garvin Nicholas said Persad-Bissessar leaves Trinidad and Tobago tomorrow to attend the Caricom Heads of Government meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica from Sunday (July 4) to Wednesday (July 7).

Nicholas said Persad-Bissessar will address the opening of the meeting at the Rosehall Resort and Spa on Sunday in her capacity as “a newly elected head.” The meeting will be her first Caricom leaders meeting since being elected as Prime Minister on May 24. Last month, Guyana President Bharath Jagdeo paid a courtesy call on Persad-Bissessar ahead of the Jamaica meeting to discuss new forms of economic cooperation between both countries.

Nicholas also said Persad-Bissessar will address the human and development session of the Caricom meeting, on the issue of crime and security. TT is responsible for security matters in the regional body’s quasi-Cabinet. The Prime Minister will be accompanied on her trip by Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan and Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz.

After the meeting ends, Nicholas said Persad-Bissessar will conduct “a working visit” to Kingston on the invitation of Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding from Thursday (July 8) to Friday (July 9) when she departs for Miami. Persad-Bissessar will stay in Miami from Friday to Sunday (July 11) where she will visit with family and attend a private function. The Prime Minister returns home on Monday (July 12).

Nicholas stated while Persad-Bissessar is abroad Warner “will act as Prime Minister.” This means that Warner will miss the 2010 World Cup Final in South Africa, which he would usually have attended, which takes place on July 11. However Sports Minister Anil Roberts will be in South Africa having been given permission by Persad-Bissessar and the Cabinet to accept FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s invitation to attend the World Cup.

During the conference, Newsday asked Roberts and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan whether Warner’s acting appointment raised any concerns within the Cabinet given the recent controversy over Warner’s positions as Works Minister and FIFA vice-president.

On June 17, Government released the opinions of four eminent legal counsels who said Warner was not breaching any law by simultaneously holding the posts. That advice was sought after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley wrote the Integrity Commission on June 7 to seek an opinion on the matter. On June 9, the commission issued a statement which did not say whether it was right or wrong for Warner to hold both posts. The commission simply advised all persons who were Cabinet ministers to conform to the code of conduct set out in the Integrity in Public Life Act.

Both Cabinet ministers were also asked by Newsday whether Persad-Bissessar would always pick Warner to act for her, rotate her choice among other elected MPs who are Cabinet ministers or even allow a Cabinet minister who is a senator to act as prime minister.

While the PNM was in office from 2001 to May 24 2010, senators Dr Lenny Saith and Joan Yuille- Williams were the only persons who acted for then Prime Minister Patrick Manning whenever he was abroad.

Ramlogan felt Warner was “an obvious for this acting prime ministership” since he had received the highest number of votes in the general election among all elected MPs and was the chairman of the United National Congress (UNC). He said only Persad-Bissessar could decide whether Warner will always act for her or choose other Cabinet ministers. He reiterated that the Warner- Integrity Commission matter was a non-issue and added that Warner recuses himself from Cabinet meetings whenever a potential conflict of interest could arise.

Ramlogan also said Warner will not make any prime ministerial decisions while Persad-Bissessar is abroad. Stating that all Warner will be required to do in Persad-Bissessar’s absence is to chair the weekly Cabinet meeting, Ramlogan said, “Should any matter arise, in the Prime Minister’s absence, we will simply defer it.”

Roberts praised Persad-Bissessar for having the “the fortitude, strength, understanding and care for the people” to choose an elected MP to act for her while she was overseas.

He told reporters after the briefing that Warner recused himself from the Cabinet meeting before Persad-Bissessar announced he would act for her. Roberts said Warner also recused himself from the meeting when he brought notes to discuss matters pertaining to the TT Pro Football League. Warner is special adviser to the TT Football Federation. See pages 45A, 46A.

During a tour of the Prime Minister’s Residence and Diplomatic Centre at La Fantasie later in the day, Nicholas responded to questions about why Finance Minister, and COP leader, Winston Dookeran was overlooked to act as prime minister. Noting there was much public speculation on this matter, Nicholas said, “The Prime Minister decided that the best choice at this time was Minister Jack Warner, as a result of that she chose Minister Warner.”

While the UNC and COP were still finalising what seats would be contested in the local government election, Nicholas said, “there is a People’s Partnership Government in place. There are different people with different roles but it does not mean for a second when the Prime Minister goes out on official duties internationally that she will rotate leaders of the People’s Partnership to act as Prime Minister.”

Nicholas said the Partnership agreement was about fighting the election in a particular way “but then we govern in another way.”


"Jack is Acting Prime Minister"

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