Once again, the Prime Minister has not taken us into her confidence. She has us expectant for days, then announces a major reshuffling of her Government, with an explanation restricted to her belief that it will lead to greater competence and better performance.
Her approach stretches the credulity too far and, from a democratic perspective, is not a little disrespectful.
She has moved bodies around, expanded her cabinet, fired Sandy and St Rose Greaves (both of them Afros in an Indo-dominated government), demoted Alleyne-Toppin and Dookeran, and elevated Warner. Of course, the Constitution gives her the authority to do so, but she should take the trouble to develop an explanation as to how her reshuffle will improve governance of the country, with specific reference to major problem areas.
How does expanding her cabinet make her Government manage and perform better? Was one of the major problems not enough bodies in government?
How does shifting ministers from ministry to ministry make them more competent? What is the skill set that Suruj Rambachan has that makes him more suited now to local government than foreign affairs? And what is the skill set that Winston Dookeran has acquired that makes him more suited to foreign affairs than finance (and the economy!)?
What is the skill set that Clifton De Coteau has that now makes him more suited to running a brand-new ministry — the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration? How is Ganga Singh better than Emmanuel George at running Public Utilities (and Water Resources!)? How is it better to place Devant Maharaj in Food Production than Transport?
What is it about Verna St Rose Greaves's performance that disqualified her from continuing with Social Development? And in what way was John Sandy incompetent when the AG, the Prime Minister, the leader of government business, the chairman of the UNC—indeed, the whole cabinet —were running his ministry?
What is the role of Cabinet responsibility in all of this? Not too long before the reshuffle, the Prime Minister made a public fuss about ministers committing to the doctrine of cabinet responsibility. If ministers have to abide by cabinet policies and other decisions, where does individual ministerial lack of fit with ministries come in? Did Sandy come up with the policies on crime on his own or was he not part of shared cabinet decision-making?
The Prime Minister made her changes without deigning to show us, except in the case of Jack Warner, how — for example, by reference to individual ministers' training, experience, and aptitude — they would improve governance and the delivery of government services. With regard to Warner, all she could highlight was that he was a "man of action,'' leaving us to infer that Sandy was not and perhaps others in her cabinet were not either. But if Warner is the only man of action in her cabinet, how can she expect better performance overall?
No, her reshuffle does not seem to have been motivated by a need to achieve a better alignment between ministers' skill sets and the ministries they are called upon to run; there must be something else. A bramble to give the impression that she is on top of an agenda of seriousness? A signal to the country that she is in charge? An attempt to repair damaged relations caused by arrogant, insensitive ministers in certain ministries?
Was it essentially a misdirection of the population?
It was not tied to the big issue of how to achieve the lofty goal of Partnership governance, and one hesitates before the conclusion that St Rose Greaves was sacrificed for Marlene Coudray to be shifted from the San Fernando mayoralty in order to sweeten relations between the UNC and the COP. The goal is the capture of San Fernando East in 2015 or the next time around, whichever is sooner, right? In any event, good Partnership governance is about accommodating different agendas along agreed political lines, isn't it?
The reshuffle was not tied to the big issue of legislation to fix the problems of procurement, was it? After all, Anand Ramlogan retains the post of Attorney General, with no obvious progress on this sensitive issue. It seems the Prime Minister thinks he is properly aligned.
But it may be tied to the Partnership's goal of removing London in Tobago. After all, it is well known that Vernella Alleyne-Toppin and TOP leader Ashworth Jack do not get along. So that Dr Baker is politically more suited to taking over Tobago Development, right?
What does it say about a prime minister when she can make major personnel changes to her government and not see it fit to try to persuade the country about the wisdom of her choices? Does it not suggest governance from on high, and apart from the people? Does it not suggest constitutional dictatorship? Isn't it redolent of disrespect for the citizenry?
So what can we expect down the road? Better ministerial performance, apart from Cabinet direction?A significant reduction of crime as a result of a series of unprecedented Warner actions?
Another reshuffle, say, in 2014?
• Winford James is a UWI lecturer and political analyst