In less than a week, a second Cabinet minister has been removed from the People’s Partnership Government.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday accepted the resignation of Tourism Minister Chandresh Sharma and has asked President Anthony Carmona to revoke his appointment.
Communications Minister Gerry Hadeed is now the new Tourism Minister and Trade Minister Vasant Bharath will head the Ministry of Trade, Investments and Communications.
Last Tuesday, the Prime Minister fired Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh as minister of the People and Social Development and took control of the Ministry.
Ramadharsingh was dismissed following reports of his disorderly conduct aboard a Caribbean Airlines (CAL) flight.
Sharma, 54, resigned in the wake of a police probe into reports against him by his ex-girlfriend Sacha Singh, 30, who alleged that the former minister assaulted her at Grand Bazaar car park on March 12.
Singh alleged that she confronted Sharma with a woman with whom he allegedly had an affair and a 12-year-old child from that relationship, whom he refused to maintain, and when she did this he became violent.
Congress of the People (COP) political leader Prakash Ramadhar had issued a call for Persad-Bissessar to fire Sharma should he not tender his resignation.
The Prime Minister issued a statement yesterday in which she emphasised that wrongdoing will not be tolerated in her Government.
“There is no privileged escape, no allowance for arrogance, no forgiveness for indiscretion. Those days are gone, such compromise has expired. The responsible leadership which we promised to usher in a dawn of a new era is the new political currency,” stated the Prime Minister.
Persad-Bissessar noted that there was discussion on the number of time changes were made to her Cabinet.
“I say that is a measurement of my commitment to maintaining the high ideals upon which we were elected. I am not swayed by any other consideration other than that which is right and honourable. Each member of my administration must be mindful that we are held to different, higher standards than ever before, even by those who are our most bitter critics,” she said.
“My leadership isn’t formed in the mould of loud and angry politicians who feel that shouting and attacking everything is the best way to be heard. But my decisions and policies speak even louder of who I am and what I expect of those around me in government,” she said.
The People’s Partnership Government, said Persad-Bissessar, was stronger than ever because of the tough decisions taken “and the population can breathe easier today, confident in the knowledge that value-based leadership will never be compromised”.
The Prime Minister took the opportunity to recognise Sharma’s contributions and service to the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Contacted by phone, Singh commended both Sharma and Persad-Bissessar for their actions.
“I believe that is probably the only honourable thing he (Sharma) has done since I met him a year ago. I am very impressed with our Prime Minister, her being a woman and understanding that this type of abuse or any abuse for that matter must not be tolerated,” said Singh.
Singh said she has no regrets about having a relationship with Sharma even though he was a married man.
“It was a learning experience and every experience happens for a reason. I have no regrets if this makes me stronger,” she said.
While she commended the Prime Minister for accepting Sharma’s resignation, Singh called on Persad-Bissessar to stop the malicious attack on her character by United National Congress (UNC) supporters who have taken to social media to defame her by posting private photographs of her online.
“I commend her (Persad-Bissessar) and still continue to have the utmost respect for her, but I still plead for her to help me, these UNC supporters must stop spreading my pictures all over,” said Singh.
Earlier yesterday, Singh called a news conference at her Piarco office to speak on the issue.
She said a few years ago she took photos of herself which she sent via WhatsApp to her ex-boyfriend Cliff Paray and had saved them to an e-mail.
Singh said last June, her former IT staff, whom she fired, hacked into her system and took the photographs and spread them on a local pornography website.
“Today these pictures are being circulated from the UNC supporters in a plot to show the country I am everything negative that can come from having these pictures,” she said.
Paray was present at the news conference to confirm that Singh did in fact send the private photographs to him four years ago.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on now with the potential assault charges and she (Singh) is a very very good person as far as I know and I do support her all the way,” he said.
“This is not the focus of the matter, it is not okay to be victimised like this when I am simply standing up for all women who don’t have the strength nor the courage to stand up against being assaulted by a man,” she said.
Singh added that she knew that coming forward and pressing charges against Sharma would bring repercussions.
However, she made it clear she has no intent in bringing down Persad-Bissessar’s Government.
“I am sorry to all UNC and Chandresh supporters, but this isn’t about hurting your Government, it’s about a woman taking a stance for what is right. No man shall hit or abuse a woman. Whether it’s physical, mental, emotional, no type of abuse should be done to a woman by a man,” said Singh.
The Prime Minister took the decision to accept Sharma’s resignation before leaving for Panama yesterday evening to attend the World Economic Forum and is scheduled to return on Thursday.
Labour Minister Errol McLeod will act as Prime Minister in her absence.