Among the new faces to the Cabinet were two previous ministers in the Manning Cabinet namely Housing Minister Pennelope Beckles and Foreign Affairs Minister Amery Browne, former ambassador to Brazil, now under a 14-day quarantine which is scheduled to end on Sunday.
The three new faces joining the Rowley Cabinet are : Labour Minister Stephen McClashie; Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales, and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Communications Symon de Nobriga.
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for Child Affairs and Gender Affairs Ayanna Webster-Roy, who operates from Tobago, attends Cabinet whenever she is in Trinidad and “whenever she is required to be in the Cabinet” will continue to enjoy Cabinet rank.
Bridgid Annisette-George in whom the Opposition laid a motion of no-confidence during the ladt debate in the House has been appointed Speaker of the House.
There are four elected MPs without portfolios — Esmond Forde, who is likely to return as Deputy Speaker; businessman Roger Monroe, pilot Kennedy Richards and attorney Keith Scotland.
At a news conference following the swearing-in ceremony, Rowley explained that no parliamentary secretaries were appointed because he feels their function is difficult to explain.
“There have been many instances of the appointment leading to nullity. It is easier to identify functions for a Minister in the Ministry than a parliamentary secretary who some people believe is a glorified secretary,” he said, adding that some appointees have suffered as a result of this lack of clarity.
When asked by the media about the role of the four members of parliament who were not appointed ministers and whether a three or four-man backbench might pose difficulties for a government with a three-seat majority, the Prime Minister said he did not anticipate any problems since the PNM was a disciplined party.
“As we go to the population seeking its franchise nobody in the PNM has come forward on the basis of having made a deal. So it should not be surprising that we have a small backbench, one of those persons will be Deputy Speaker. And of course, it is useful to have a small reserve,” the Prime Minister said.
He said with the Parliament there are important functions, such as Parliament committees, where governmental action takes place and where more and more work is being done.
“It is not that people have been left out, they just have different responsibilities,” the PM said.
Speaking about the issue of race which was front and centre in the elections, Rowley said that the UNC’s election campaign was indeed based on the element of race.: “The whole question of the one-corridor movement that was presented by the UNC was based entirely on race and the intention of that platform was to suppress voter participation in the East-West Corridor,” he said.
Rowley noted that the “foul ads” were a last-ditch effort to signal some people that they have a problem here, based on their racial circumstance.
“And it was a deliberate campaign strategy which backfired spectacularly,” he said. The Prime Minister said his party takes no responsibility for the race element in the campaign, “except to point it out, respond to it and to object to it.” He said he expected that the country would move forward, in the principles of the National Anthem where every creed and race finds an equal place.
In the meantime, United National Congress leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she will serve until the party's internal elections. However, she has alluded to the upcoming period as the "twilight" of her political career.
"After careful thought, prayer and reflection, I have decided to commit myself to the leadership of the party in and outside of Parliament until the internal election," Persad-Bissessar said yesterday.
In a statement that came soon after the Elections and Boundaries Commission concluded the last of the five recounts in St Joseph and confirmed the PNM's 22-19 win, Mrs. Persad Bissessar officially conceded defeat, which she hadn't done on election night.
She said "After some days of reflection and monitoring of the progress of the election recount process, I am satisfied the people have spoken and that (PNM leader) Dr (Keith) Rowley and his party shall form the new Government of T&T. I congratulate them and wish them the best."
"Some observers have been raising questions about my political future and some are keen to see me exit the political landscape. This is understandable, as I have myself queried whether I should resign. This is not an easy job," Persad-Bissessar said.
"You must accept responsibility for mistakes made whether you were aware of them or not, whether you had any control over them or not. And yes, some of them you make on your own – I lay no claim to infallibility. I accept full responsibility. Having consulted with my colleagues, it is clear that running away is not an option at this point in time. The UNC must have a degree of stability as it consolidates and unites during the period of transition, growth and transformation," the UNC leader declared.
She added, "Until such a time as our party chooses otherwise, I will remain their faithful champion and servant. It has already been explained that the UNC will hold scheduled elections for a political leader," Persad Bissessar concluded.
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