Speaking following the opening of the Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF) at the Hilton Trinidad, Persad-Bissessar said, “I am the Prime Minister of Trinidad AND Tobago. I will discharge my duties not only as the Prime Minister of Trinidad but of Tobago as well. That is my constitutional duty.”
Explaining that there was nothing in the THA Act which debars establishment of the Office of the Prime Minister in Tobago and that she was acting within the law, Persad-Bissessar said, “There is already an office there. It’s not that I’m establishing one.” The Prime Minister added that she hopes to make that office operational, “as soon as possible.”
Asked whether she plans to meet with THA Chief Secretary Orville London to discuss issues the THA and Government disagree upon or Tobago issues in general, Persad-Bissessar said, “We have agreed that we will meet occasionally on a regular basis. We will have other meetings I’m sure.”
Asked what would be the benefit of having an Office of the Prime Minister in the sister isle, the Prime Minister said, “There are Central Government services which are not under the ambit of the THA. We would be able to bring these services closer to the people than they have been previously.”
On whether the activation of the Office of Prime Minister in Tobago is an attempt by the Partnership to give the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) a political boost ahead of THA elections constitutionally due in 2013, Persad-Bissessar replied, “I do my duty as the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.”
The TOP is one of the five political parties that comprises the People’s Partnership. The other four are the United National Congress (UNC), Congress of the People (COP), Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC).
Persad-Bissessar also said she has not aborted her plan to realign the portfolios of her Cabinet ministers. “As we speak it has not been put off. I said in June, the month is not yet done.”
Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, who was also attending the CIF opening, said any matter of realignment lay solely in the domain of the Prime Minister and she would deal with it as she sees fit.
Moonilal said Government ministers focused on issues of communication and delivery during last week’s Government retreat in Tobago
Government officials have said Persad-Bissessar intends to make a series of sweeping changes to her Cabinet. Speculation is rife that among changes proposed are the removal of Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, Tourism Min-ister Dr Rupert Griffith and Public Administration Minister Rudra-watee Nan Gosine Ramgoolam from their current portfolios.
Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh is being tipped to replace Baptiste-Cornelis. Officials also said there is consideration for Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar to be moved to head the Justice Ministry while Justice Minister Herbert Volney will take Ramadhar’s place at Legal Affairs.