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N Touch
Thursday 22 February 2018
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KAMLA’S CHANGES

Sweeping changes are expected to be made at several key Government ministries which may see some ministers being removed and others being promoted as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her one-year-old People’s Partnership coalition administration celebrate their first anniversary in Government today.

With recent opinion polls reflecting a fall in popularity for the Partnership, although the coalition remains the preferred choice to govern the country, Persad-Bissessar is expected to announce changes to her Government when she addresses supporters at a mass rally which begins at 6.30 pm at Mid-Centre Mall, Chaguanas.

The realignment, which Persad-Bissessar has previously spoken of, includes the removal of Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, Public Administration Minister Rudrawatee Nan Gosine Ramgoolam and Tourism Minister Dr Rupert Griffith from their positions in the Government, sources disclosed yesterday.

Senior Government officials told Newsday yesterday the Prime Minister decided to remove Baptiste-Cornelis, Ramgoolam and Griffith from their ministerial posts because she is unhappy with their performances which have fallen well below the standards set for all Government ministers in keeping with her mantra of “deliver, deliver, deliver.”

Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, a gynaecologist by profession, may replace Baptiste- Cornelis as Health Minister. Minister in the Ministry of Education Clifton De Coteau is expected to be promoted to replace Gopeesingh.

These ministerial changes could not be confirmed as Persad-Bissessar spent most of yesterday in meetings at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s and could not be reached for comment.

If the Cabinet changes take place as sources say, Baptiste-Cornelis and Ramgoolam may be replaced as Government senators. Up to yesterday they remained in their posts as Ramgoolam spoke in the Senate during debate on the Data Protection Bill, while Baptiste-Cornelis is in Geneva, Switzerland attending a conference. Ramgoolam acted for Baptiste-Cornelis as Health Minister.

There were also unconfirmed reports that Minister in the Ministry of Tourism Dr Delmon Baker is to be assigned the entire portfolio and is likely to replace Griffith as the line minister.

Other expected changes include a new ministry or division in the Finance Ministry to deal exclusively with stimulating economic growth. Finance Minister Winston Dookeran will remain in charge of the ministry but a minister may be appointed to the economy portfolio.

Government officials have tipped economist Jwala Rambaran as the person who will head this new ministry or division. Last week in Tobago, Persad-Bissessar named Rambaran as a member of a three-man team which will conduct a forensic management audit into the sale of slots at Heathrow International Airport in London in 2006 which were formerly held by Caribbean Airlines’ (CAL) predecessor, BWIA. Help may also be given to Local Government Minster Chandresh Sharma with the assignment of a minister in the ministry.

Another “realignment” may be the transfer of the Environment portfolio from Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal either to Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath or to a separate ministry.

Moonilal’s duties were recently increased when Persad-Bissessar shifted the Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) from the Planning Ministry headed by newly appointed minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, who in his maiden contribution in the Senate yesterday, promised to be a team player in the Government. Tewarie was appointed last week after Persad-Bissessar fired Mary King as Planning Minister and revoked her appointment as a government senator.

In addition to his ministerial duties, officials said Foreign Affairs Minister Suruj Rambachan is due to assume the role of Press Secretary and will chair the weekly post-Cabinet news conferences. The previous Press Secretary Garvin Nicholas was appointed as TT’s High Commissioner to London.

Rambachan, who chairs many UNC public meetings and will co-host today’s rally in Chaguanas with Moonilal, has presided over recent post-Cabinet news briefings at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s and at Rovanel’s Resort in Tobago.

Officials said Rambachan, who also advises Persad-Bissessar on matters of national security, is viewed by the Prime Minister as the person best qualified to help improve the Government’s public image. They added that “drastic changes” will also be made to the current media personnel employed in the communications unit at the Office of the Prime Minister in order to improve the efficiency of the unit.

Promotions and/or additional responsibilities could be in the works for some of the junior ministers and parliamentary secretaries in the coalition government. Minister in the Ministry of Works and Transport Stacy Roopnarine heads the list in this regard. Following last year’s General Election, Roopnarine was appointed parliamentary secretary in the Sport Ministry.

She was promoted to a Minister in the Works and Transport Ministry this year. Roopnarine has accompanied Persad-Bissessar on several public engagements, some of which have not involved her current portfolios. Parliamentary secretaries Ramona Ramdial (Planning) and Jairam Seemungal (Legal Affairs) may also receive additional responsibilities.

No indication has been given as to whether Ministers in the Office of the Prime Minister Collin Partap or Rodger Samuel would be shifted to another ministry or remain where they are.

Officials said the Prime Minister is also confident that crime-fighting initiatives are starting to yield positive results and has decided that National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy will retain his portfolio, with Subhas Panday remaining a Minister in the Ministry of National Security.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner and Minister of the People Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh are to retain their substantive responsibilities.

Other portfolios which are due to remain unchanged are: Labour Minister Errol McLeod, Justice Minister Herbert Volney, Energy Minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, Public Utilities Minister Emmanuel George, Tobago Development Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, Community Development Minister Nizam Baksh, Sport Minister Anil Roberts, Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Winston “Gypsy” Peters, Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz and Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar.

Persad-Bissessar had no public engagements yesterday and Newsday was informed her meetings at the Diplomatic Centre dealt mostly with preparations for today’s rally in Chaguanas.

Speaking with reporters following the commissioning of the intelligent transportation system, Warner said he spoke with Persad-Bissessar yesterday but gave no details about where the meeting took place or what was discussed. Shortly after a function at the Public Services Association (PSA) building in Port-of-Spain, Moonilal left for a meeting which officials later said was with the Prime Minister at the Diplomatic Centre around noon. Up to press time, Persad-Bissessar was engaged in additional meetings at the Diplomatic Centre.

Thousands are expected to attend today’s rally in Chaguanas with Moonilal yesterday advising members of the public working or conducting business in Port-of-Spain to leave the capital early today, as hundreds of maxi taxis have been hired to transport persons to the celebratory event.

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