Earlier at Knowsley, Singh was sworn in as Minister of Water and the Environment. Singh is the immediate past CEO of WASA, having also been Minister of Public Utilities in the UNC regime of 1995 to 2000.
Singh’s new preeminence in the Senate was seen after Senate President Tim Hamel-Smith called on the Leader of Government Business to make a statement on questions to ministers. Instead of former Senate Leader Emmanuel George (now seated midway down the Government front rank), it was Singh who rose.
Despite his sudden elevation to Senator, Minister and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, all in one day, Singh was remarkably coy when approached by Newsday during the Senate break.
He said he could not talk as the Senate President was awaiting him, but promised to talk another time. Newsday did however get to talk to two elevated Senators — Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed and Minister in the Ministry of National Diversity and Integration, Embau Moheni, whose substantive minister is Clifton de Couteau. Mohammed said his newly-formed Ministry is to be set up in Nicholas Towers, while Moheni said his Ministry will be at Riverside Plaza. Moheni said he received a briefing paper on the new Ministry but has not yet properly read it so he could not comment.
He said that a few months ago, the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), a member of the People’s Partnership, made a recommendation for formation of such a Ministry. “We are hitting the ground running from tomorrow morning,” Moheni said of the new Ministry.
Mohammed expressed his profuse thanks to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for giving him a chance to serve. “I’m honoured and delighted to get this opportunity to serve in my Government. I congratulate and thank our Prime Minister for providing the opportunity and my political leader Mr (Prakash) Ramadhar. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
He said tomorrow he would go to find the exact location of the new Ministry and his permanent secretary in Nicholas Towers. Asked about the use of the new Ministry of National Diversity, Mohammed replied, “The thinking of the Prime Minister is in tune with the policy documents of this Government...to bring people together, to understand each other and discuss whatever issues and differences we may have and find ways and means of celebrating each other and our diversity.”
Earlier in the sitting, Opposition Senator Faris al-Rawi used a debate on the housing of parliamentary to criticise the record size of the Cabinet.
He said the USA has a Cabinet of 23 persons, 1.2 billion strong-India has a Cabinet of 34, 1.3 billion-strong China has a Cabinet of 27, Jamaica has a 16-strong Cabinet, “but little T&T has 33 member Cabinet.”
He, however, hailed new Finance Minister Larry Howai for his “extreme integrity”, saying he is well-respected in the private sector and must now make the jump into the public sector.