Express Editorial : Daily

The twists and turns of public life in this country occasionally throw up a moment so bizarre that it’s impossible to choose between laugh and cry.

Yesterday’s almost-appointment of attorney Garvin Simonette to the Cabinet represented one such case. For the third time in the Rowley administration, the appointment of a Cabinet minister was botched. First there was the case of the now fraud-accused Marlene McDonald who was appointed and fired from the Cabinet all in the space of 24 hours following public condemnation of her invitation of a man known to the police to her swearing-in ceremony. Then there was the case of Robert Le Hunte whose appointment had to be revoked when it was discovered that the newly-appointed Minister of Public Utilities was a Ghanaian citizen. He had to step aside until his citizenship status was regularised.

Now we have the case of Mr Simonette who, minutes away from being sworn in at President’s House, had his nomination withdrawn after mugshots of his arrest on DUI charges in the United States surfaced. With no second nominee in hand for the Public Administration portfolio, Dr Rowley took over the responsibility, presumably on an interim basis.

The Cabinet is not the only institution to be embarrassed in its appointment of persons to high office. Two years ago, the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) elevated Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayres-Caesar to the bench only to discover that, in her elevation, she had left behind her 52 undetermined cases. She was asked to resign, and did, and the sequel to that matter is now being played out in court.

What these cases suggest is a serious deficiency in the vetting process for appointment to the highest offices in the country. Either there is a rigorous process that is being ignored or a weak process that does not capture basic candidate information such as citizenship status and criminal record.

However, even if these possible shortcomings were factors in the case of Mr Simonette, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley must accept some responsibility for yesterday’s fiasco. Ever since Ms McDonald’s arrest it was evident that there was at least an even chance of her being charged and therefore needed to be replaced in the Cabinet. With at least three days to vet prospective candidates, and especially knowing the slip-up that had occurred with Minister Le Hunte, one would have expected Dr Rowley to have exercised extra care in ensuring a thorough background check on Mr Simonette.

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We recognise that Mr Simonette was not walking off the street into the cabinet. After all, he has been a Government senator since September last year. However, the PM clearly applies different standards in appointments to the Senate and to the Cabinet. After all, he has not been bothered by public criticism about his decision to retain Dr Lester Henry as a Government senator despite the latter’s guilty plea on a drunk driving charge two years ago.

Whatever the rationale of the PM’s decision-making, the series of unfortunate incidents indicates the urgent need for setting standards for appointment to high office.


Taxi drivers plying the San Fernando to Chaguanas and San Fernando to Port of Spain routes are up in arms over the San Fernando City Corporation’s move to relocate them, in a plan to reduce congestion in the city centre.

Ansa McAl chairman, Norman Sabga, in the context of the $1 million loss by Guardian Media Ltd., said Facebook, Twitter and other international companies were able to sell media (and other services) in T&T without paying taxes, have no employees on the ground—a huge advantage to them—and when paid, they receive foreign exchange. This undermines the local media houses.

Nearly 40,000 fires are incinerating Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, the latest outbreak in an overactive fire season that has charred 1,330 square miles of the rainforest this year.

At Massy Stores a few days ago, I spent some time making lists of the sugar content and calories in the fruit juices on sale. I focused on the Nestle, Fruta and Pine Hill brands. Nestle has been promoting a new fruit and veggie medley as a healthy drink. 

At the risk of incurring the wrath of union leaders in this country, I feel compelled to add my voice to the current brouhaha over statements made by the Honourable Prime Minister.

Watson Duke and those who choose to deceitfully condemn Dr Rowley for expressing a blatant truth about a culture of unproductiveness in the public service, and which also extends to State enterprises and public companies, ought to instead use their time to confront reality. Only then will we progress as a nation.