The entire Keith Rowley Cabinet is to be sworn in at four o’clock this afternoon at President’s House, St Ann’s.
It would be the first swearing-in at this venue since 2003.
Noting at a news conference at Balisier House yesterday that the Government lost one week during the general election recounting process, the Prime Minister said the entire Government would be sworn in because it had to get down to work.
He said he was a little disappointed his Government had not been able to hit the ground running, “and that the last week has been wasted in gross futility”.
He said the Government had a budget to prepare. “You would see some of the new people who would come into the Parliament accepting significant responsibility, but there would be a very strong element of continuity in the Government,” he stated.
“I am in the process of putting together a Cabinet and the rest of the Government which, by tomorrow afternoon, should be available to the public, because I intend to accept the invitation of the President (Paula-Mae Weekes) to attend on her tomorrow at four o’clock.
“So the general elections of 2020 would be finally over, and we would begin to focus on the future of Trinidad and Tobago,” he added.
The Prime Minister said he received communication from the President indicating that she had received the requisite correspondence from the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) on the 22-19 election result.
PM tight-lipped on Cabinet appointments
Rowley was reluctant to disclose any ministerial appointments and would not reveal whether Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi would be retaining his portfolio.
Sources, however, told the Express that the new Labour Minister is Stephen McClashie, procurement consultant. McClashie has 40 years of experience in supply chain management, project execution, business development, strategic planning and finance, and currently works at NGC (National Gas Company) as a senior manager in supply chain management.
Sources said the new Education Minister, who would manage this portfolio in this period of pandemic uncertainty, is Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, the former minister of Culture, Community Development and the Arts.
Gadsby-Dolly holds a PhD in chemistry (organic chemistry). After graduating from St Augustine Girls’ High School, she attended The University of the West Indies, graduating with a BSc, MPhil and PhD in chemistry. She also completed a post-graduate diploma in educational technology (with distinction) from the School of Education in 2006. She is a former lecturer at COSTAATT, from which she entered politics.
Sources also said Clarence Rambharat will return to the Ministry of Agriculture. Rambharat contested the Chaguanas East seat and was unsuccessful. He has never contested in a safe PNM seat, having unsuccessfully fought the Mayaro seat in 2015.
A lawyer by profession, he was for 20 years a university lecturer in administrative and constitutional law, international law at the University of British Columbia, in Canada. He has held the portfolio of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries since September 11, 2015. He also acted as leader of Government Business in the Senate, in the absence of Franklin Khan.
The Prime Minister has indicated that agriculture would be an area of major focus in the new term.
“You would see some changes that would focus on some of the major initiatives—one of the areas you would see is agriculture, us giving agriculture centre stage, we intend to do a lot of work in agriculture... and also the question of digitisation,” Rowley said, when asked about the features of the new Cabinet. He added that this was in step with the “Road Map to Recovery” arrangements amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dismissive of concession
The Prime Minister was dismissive of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s concession yesterday, which he suggested came too late. “I don’t know that a concession after the EBC has written to the President, advising the President that it has determined who has won the 41 seats and the President is inviting the leader of the winning party to form a government, there is no room for any concession there,” he said.
Rowley said the August 10 election was well run, especially since it was done in a pandemic. He also said the huge number of irregularities and “unnecessary accusations against the EBC” by the Opposition Leader and her party were just an attempt to justify not having won the election.
“I do not think that that is helpful,” he said, adding that the EBC was not controlled by political entities but was an independent body.
Rowley said with the Government’s slim parliamentary majority (a three-seat majority), the Parliament would pass laws that this majority can pass. He said it would be a challenge to pass special majority legislation.
He said this budget would be one with a difference because it had to cater for “pandemic nuances” and required “footwork”, and this was why the election was called early to give the new government enough time to prepare it.