The new Dr Keith Rowley Cabinet retains most of the previous familiar faces in frontline portfolios – but with the Education Ministry in the hands of two mothers and the return of former Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne as Foreign Affairs Minister.
And Prime Minister Rowley yesterday presented his new team to T&T with a public notice, “We’re starting on a 60-month journey, as it can be counted in months and no one will be allowed to fall asleep as conduct and performance will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.”
Rowley gave the assurance at yesterday’s swearing-in of the new Government team at President’s House, St Ann’s, where he took the oath of office at 4.06 pm. It was the first function at the redone President’s House since 2007.
The function followed recent announcement of the final results of last Monday’s General Election. Thereafter, President Paula-Mae Weekes immediately issued letters to Rowley and UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, enquiring of their willingness to be appointed Prime Minister and Opposition Leader respectively.
Persad-Bissessar, in a statement on Tuesday, signalled willingness to do so but was absent at yesterday’s function although invited. She will be sworn in as Opposition Leader at a separate function.
Ministers took their oath of office amid strict social distancing measures yesterday.
Rowley, dressed in a three-piece suit with red tie, pocket kerchief and mask, told the gathering his Cabinet size remains the same as before – 22 members. He said the changes are not earth-shattering but are significant.
Taking the oath of office as Attorney General immediately after Rowley was PNM San Fernando West MP Faris Al-Rawi.
It will be the second term of office for Al-Rawi, as well as 16 other Cabinet members – including Ministers Colm Imbert, Terrence Deyalsingh, Stuart Young, Camille Robinson-Regis, Shamfa Cudjoe, Randall Mitchell, Fitzgerald Hinds and Rohan Sinanan. Ten of them – from Imbert to Young – retained portfolios they held in the last term.
There is one new ministry – Youth Development and National Service – and three others which feature combined elements of other ministries.
There are four new faces in the Cabinet: Foreign Affairs Minister-designate Amery Browne, Housing Minister Penny Beckles-Robinson, Labour Minister Steven McLashie and Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales.
Browne, T&T’s former ambassador to Brazil, returned from there recently and is quarantined with his family. Browne had previously served in the Patrick Manning PNM government.
Yesterday, Rowley said (COVID) conditions in Brazil are now worrisome. He said Browne’s quarantine is expected to end Sunday and he expects him out on Monday once Browne’s test is negative. Rowley said Browne is experienced, has held Cabinet responsibility and his selection is another step in the public service which Browne can fulfil.
Among changes, Rowley said he’s put Education in the hands of two mothers – Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Minister in Education Lisa Morris-Julien.
“And I trust they couldn’t be better placed – the two of them are responsible for their own families and for the children of T&T now,” he said.
The most significant thing he expects in that ministry is a radical reform of T&T’s curriculum from primary to secondary school. He asked the two women to ensure reform places the topic of civics on the education system curriculum to prepare people for citizenship.
The Communication Division will now be under the Office of the Prime Minister. Minister in the OPM Symon De Nobriga will be Communication Minister, replacing Donna Cox, who moves to Social Development.
Rowley also thanked those who’d advised him on who should hold Finance. He said at this time, a minister who knew what is happening is Finance is needed and this wasn’t the time for experimenting and training – but for experience,
“This is a period where challenges of financing and budgeting aren’t for the faint-hearted and I assure you the current Finance Minister (Imbert) isn’t a faint-hearted person.”
Alongside Imbert is San Fernando East MP Brian Manning, who will be a Minister in Finance.
Former minister in Finance Allyson West now heads Public Administration and Digital Transformation. West held Public Administration after former Minister Marlene McDonald was charged by police.
Another new face in Government, Senator Hassel Bacchus, will be a minister in Public Administration and Digital Transformation. He’s TSTT’s former Chief Technology officer.
Rowley said the experienced Franklin Khan was returned to Energy since experience was very valuable in the energy business.
3 ministries focus on youths
The new Youth Development and National Service Ministry held by Fitzgerald Hinds will provide a path to train youths to pick up responsibility in areas, Prime Minister Rowley said.
The ministry will rebuild three youth camps and relocate youths from unproductive activities to other areas. He said conversations will also have to be held on what national service means.
Retaining the previous Agriculture team of Minister Clarence Rambharat and Avinash Singh, he said the thrust will be not only towards diversification but also search for the next generation of farmers. The team will bring agricultural lands into production and encourage youths towards farming and supporting existing farms.
“Without farming, there will be no farmers and without this, there will be little agriculture,” he said.
Rowley said there’s also synergy in the combination of Sport and Community Development held by Shamfa Cudjoe. The ministry is also expected to assist youths develop in community activities, including sports.
Out of the nine PNM MPs removed as candidates, former San Fernando East MP Randall Mitchell is the only one allocated a ministry. He retained Tourism, which he previously held and to which was added the Culture and Arts portfolios. Rowley said the latter are integral parts of what tourism will become when it returns to life.
T&T’S NEW GOVERNMENT
PRIME MINISTER Dr Keith Rowley (MP)
ATTORNEY GENERAL & LEGAL AFFAIRS – Faris Al-Rawi (MP)
AGRICULTURE – Clarence Rambharat (Senator)
EDUCATION – Nyan Gadsby-Dolly (MP)
ENERGY & ENERGY INDUSTRIES – Franklin Khan (Senator)
FINANCE – Colm Imbert (MP)
HEALTH – Terrence Deyalsingh (MP)
HOUSING & URBAN DEVELOPMENT – Pennelope Beckles-Robinson (MP)
LABOUR – Steven McLashie (MP)
LOCAL GOVERNMENT/RURAL DEVELOPMENT – Kazim Hosein (Senator)
NATIONAL SECURITY & MINISTER IN THE OFFICE OF PM – Stuart Young (MP)
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT – Camille Robinson-Regis (MP)
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION & DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION – Allyson West
PUBLIC UTILITIES – Marvin Gonzales (MP)
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT & FAMILY SERVICES – Donna Cox (Senator)
SPORT & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT- Shamfa Cudjoe (MP)
CULTURE, TOURISM & The ARTS – Randall Mitchell (Senator)
TRADE & INDUSTRY – Paula Gopee-Scoon (Senator)
WORKS & TRANSPORT – Rohan Sinanan (Senator)
YOUTH DEVELOPMENT & NATIONAL SERVICES- Fitzgerald Hinds (MP)
TO COME: FOREIGN & CARICOM AFFAIRS – Dr Amery Browne (Senator)
MINISTERS IN MINISTRIES
San Fernando East MP Brian Manning – Finance
Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy- Office of the PM (Gender/Children’s Affairs)
Diego Martin Central MP Symon de Nobriga – Office of the PM (Communication)
Senator Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal – Ministry of the AG and Legal Affairs
Senator Avinash Singh – Agriculture
D’Abadie O’Meara MP Lisa Morris-Julien – Education
Senator Hassel Bacchus – Public Administration & Digital Transformation
Laventille East/Morvant MP Adrian Leonce – Housing & Urban Development
La Horquetta/Talparo MP Foster Cummings – Works & Transport