Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday fired Marlene McDonald from the post of minister of housing and urban development, revoking her appointment and making several other changes to his Cabinet at the same time.
McDonald’s dismissal, six months into the new government’s term, has made her the first minister of the Rowley People’s National Movement (PNM) administration to be removed. She has been replaced by Randall Mitchell, who formerly held the post of public administration minister, the Trinidad Guardian reported.
In a statement on Thursday night, the government announced the changes to the Cabinet that were made following McDonald’s dismissal.
With Mitchell replacing McDonald in housing, his former public administration portfolio has been added to Maxie Cuffie’s Communication responsibilities. Cuffie will now be minister of public administration and communication. Stuart Young has been assigned as minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, in addition to his current portfolio as minister in the ministry of the attorney general, where he serves alongside Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi.
Rowley moved against McDonald – one of his very few senior ministers – following Wednesday’s news report of an alleged breach of Parliamentary rules and claims that McDonald’s common-law spouse Michael Carew and his brother Lennox were hired among 13 members of her constituency office over several years in the last term.
It was reported that Michael Carew worked at the office from June 2010 to September 2015, earning the second highest salary of $13,400 monthly for the entire constituency term, while his brother has been working at the office since 2011 and received $14,000 in salary.
But according to the Parliament’s 2010-2015 (Tenth Parliament) manual on rules for engagement of constituency staff, MPs are restricted from employing relatives as employees in their constituency offices and such relatives are described as (a) spouses, (b) co-habitants, (c) children/step children/adopted children/grandchildren, (d) parents, step parents/grandparents, (e) siblings, (nephews/nieces), (f) uncles/aunts, (g) cousins. The 2015-2020 (11th Parliament) manual also states MPs aren’t allowed to hire relatives at their constituency offices.
Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Wednesday called on Rowley to fire McDonald, noting he had evidence of breach of the Integrity in Public Life legislation pertaining to use of public office for the benefit of the MP and her family.
Persad-Bissessar claimed similar breaches occurred concerning other allegations against McDonald, including the issue of the Calabar Foundation which Michael Carew reportedly headed and McDonald’s alleged involvement in securing a Housing Development Corporation house for Carew at Fidelis Heights in 2008 when she was in the Manning government.