Wednesday, January 17, 2018

PM plans to reshuffle ministers in May

Move to bring UNC deputy leader Coudray into Senate


Finance Minister Winston Dookeran and Foreign Affairs

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Communications Minister Surujrattan Rambachan.

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Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is planning to reshuffle her deck of Government ministers in early May.

The Sunday Express has been reliably informed that a reshuffle was in the works prior to the United National Congress' (UNC) internal elections, held on March 24.

The outcome of the internal elections, the Sunday Express was told, was critical to the appointments and reappointments.

The Sunday Express has learned that the portfolios of Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath, Finance Minister Winston Dookeran and Foreign Affairs and Communications Minister Suruj- rattan Rambachan are among those that will likely be realigned.

The Sunday Express also learned a move is being considered to displace a Government senator to bring new UNC deputy political leader Mar- lene Coudray into the Senate.

Government officials yesterday said they had no knowledge of the proposed reshuffle.

Rambachan told the Sunday Express he had "no knowledge of that".

The Sunday Express was told yesterday that Persad-Bissessar was resting with her family over the long Easter weekend.

She leaves for the Summit of the Americas in Colombia this week.

In March 2011, Persad-Bissessar had denied reports there would be a reshuffle in her then nine- month-old Government.

Three months later, she sacked four ministers —Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, Public Administration Minister Rudrawatee Nan Ramgoolam, Minister in the Ministry of National Security Subhas Panday and Senator Patrick Watson—and created two new ministries, the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development.

Other ministries were beefed up with manpower while others were expanded under existing ministers.

The proposed reshuffle, sources close to the Government said, comes on the heels of Government's mid-term.

Former prime minister Patrick Manning had called a general election during the People's National Movement's (PNM) adminstration's mid-term and lost.

Persad-Bissessar recently fielded a move of no-confidence brought against her in Parliament by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, and has faced public scrutiny and criticism for her decision to call a State of Emergency, her packed travel schedule, as well as her decision to have her sister accompany her as a travel assistant.

The decision to realign some portfolios, the Sunday Express was told, was to get tangible results on performance from an increasingly sceptical electorate.

The move also comes as Works Minister Jack Warner has reclaimed chairmanship of the UNC with a 12,000-vote advantage against his nearest rival, attorney Ashvani Mahabir.

Warner's victory, it was explained yesterday, has raised the value of his flagging political stock in the People's Partnership and to Persad-Bissessar.

Shortly after his victory, he was asked to be a member of the National Security Council, a unit in the Office of the Prime Minister, to develop and implement National Security policy.

The Council is usually comprised of the Prime Minister, Attorney General, Minister of National Security, head of the intelligence agencies, Chief of Defence Staff, and ministers hand-picked by the Prime Minister.

Questioned yesterday about this, Warner responded: "I don't want to comment on it. I was asked to serve and I am serving. I never asked the rationale."

Questioned on whether his victory had changed the manner in which he was being treated in the Government, he responded: "The fact that I am still in Cabinet is indicative that I am not looked at negatively. The people recognise the FIFA issue is outside of Trinidad and Tobago and has not affected my performance as a minister."

He pointed out that on Wednesday, the Prime Minister, along with the Ministry of Works, will formally launch the Nation- al Roads Rehabilitation Programme to 166 contractors at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad) hotel in Port of Spain.

This programme, he said, will succeed the Programme for the Upgrade of Road Efficiency (PURE), in which an audit was conducted.

Congress of the People (COP) member Robert Mayers pointed out last week to the Sunday Express that Warner was "ascending".

"The all-inclusive is a reaction to the internal elections. They were beaten and recognise power when they see it," he opined.

"This Prime Minister needs to have people around her who can do work. And all we've had are missteps and missteps, so what we're seeing is a changing of the guard," he told the Sunday Express.