CLIFTON DE COTEAU attended his first function as Minister of the newly created Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration, and sought to explain what the portfolio was meant to achieve.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Ramai Trace Hindu Primary School in Debe, De Coteau said the ministry was responsible for " facilitating citizen's requests, engaging society, upholding national heroes, ensuring the adherence of protocols of the state, (and) commemorating public holidays".
In addition, he said, the ministry had the job of "harmonising ecclesiastical affairs, maintenance of museums and the national trust, educating the public on moral, ethical and spiritual values and creating a Council for the Development of an Integration and National Identity Policy."
De Coteau said the ministry was needed, and he was capable of performing.
The former Minister in the Ministry of Education said of his new ministry "We are to champion diversity and inclusion and help shape our evolving character as a nation, through policy measures and institutional reforms that will use our heritage to build a legacy of true and strong inclusiveness."
He said some of the portfolios under his ministry were previously under the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.
De Coteau said the ministry was important and much needed despite public criticism and concern.
De Coteau told reporters that the ministry needed to be staffed.
He said "You have to look for a permanent secretary. You have to look for a place. It is not like the other ministries that went into something.
It is something new. In other words we are creating a new path.
We did get a place yesterday. At first they sent us to Riverside Plaza (in Port-of-Spain) but it was too challenging and it would have cost the government too much really to refurbish that area.
Plus it is a ministry where we will have a lot of interfacing with the people and so it was necessary to find a place that the people will feel comfortable in and easily accessible so we have one in St Clair just outside of the Prime Minister's Office."