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April 14, 2018

Public perplexed, Mr PM

Dr. the Hon. Keith Rowley

by Vernon Khelawan

As I predicted a few columns ago, the bringing back of Marlene McDonald into the Cabinet was simply a precursor to her taking over Maxie Cuffie’s job as Minister of Public Administration and Communications, even though her skills in the communications business is lacking.

So, this Cabinet reshuffle doesn’t really augur well for the future of our governance profile. Shamfa Cudjoe to Sports? Questionable to say the least. If she was a failure in tourism, then it’s hardly likely she would do any better in Sports and Youth Affairs. Her replacement MP Randall Mitchell, well we’ll just have to wait and see.

MP Darryl Smith, who was last Monday appointed junior Minister in the Ministry of Housing had his appointment revoked in less than 24 hours on Tuesday afternoon. Reason is that “more information” had come to the PM’s attention. This is not the first time this has happened in the Keith Rowley administration.

But this administration’s mis-steps continued when McDonald was sacked as Housing Minister. She was recalled to Cabinet, but that appointment lasted just days before she was “dis”appointed. She was recalled in preparation for Maxie’s ministry. She is still there.

Then there was Robert Le Hunte, who was forced to fly to Ghana to resolve a citizenship matter before he took up his duties as Public Utilities Minister. Now we have the Darryl Smith episode, fired for allegation of sexual misconduct.

We had the issue of Foreign Affairs and Caricom Minister Dennis Moses being forgiven for not knowing about our vote against our brother Caricom nation Dominica which was seeking a two-year fee waiver from the Organisation of American States (OAS).

I’ve always written about the lack of proper leadership in our governance structure. The Prime Minister claims he did not know about the alleged transgression of MP Smith. He is not hands on with the collapsed inter-island ferry service, and I am not too sure that he is good with Minister Edmund Dillon’s crime fighting efforts because he says absolutely nothing about these concerns. Where is the leadership responsibility?

It is hard to understand how on a Thursday PM Rowley makes the grandiose statement that he has “confidence” in all his ministers and on Monday he announces a grand Cabinet reshuffle. Is this a true reflection of the confidence he has in his ministers? Or does it show a lack of confidence in his Cabinet members? Does it show the party’s penchant for defending their own? This is all rather perplexing to me.

This leadership continues to haunt the citizenry and would seem to be doing some serious damage to our governance because little issues take precedence over more important matters. Imagine our PM taking time to comment on a press release which contained the verb ‘has’ instead of ‘have’. Every day in our local newspapers there are mistakes such as these and there is nary a word said about it. The PM makes a big scene of it.

There are issues facing this country which are far more important to the people than a mistake in a press release. We have the collapse of the sea bridge; the large amount of money which the ad hoc arrangement with Caribbean Airlines is costing either CAL or the government – the bussing of passengers both at Piarco and ANR Robinson International airports; the cost of a ferry ticket as opposed to an airline ticket and of course the free tickets for senior citizens.

Wet leasing a LIAT plane to help the movement of passengers between the islands will now cost some $5 million plus, rather than the original $3 million estimated cost, an increase of more than $2 million is the only cost to which the public is privy. The public has a right to know.