(L-R) Minister of Communications Gerald Hadeed; Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar; Minister of State in the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development Raziah Ahmed; and Minister of National Security Gary Griffith
By Rhondor Dowlat
Caribbean News Now contributor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- As part of a Cabinet reshuffle on Thursday, Trinidad and Tobago now has a new National Security Minister, Gary Griffith, a former captain in the TT Defence Force and the Prime Minister's National Security Advisor.
The announcement was made on Thursday afternoon by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar during the weekly post Cabinet media briefing.
New National Security Minister, Captain Gary Griffith. Photo: gov.tt
Griffith is the fourth person to hold the post after Brigadier John Sandy, Jack Warner and Emmanuel George.
Persad-Bissessar said Griffith would be an ideal fit since he has military experience.
"The new Minister has been an Advisor to the Office the Prime Minister and to the National Security Council and is very aware of the plans, of the programmes, the projects. What we wanted was to have someone with that background, military background, who will be able to drive the projects at a faster rate,” she said.
Griffith resigned from the United National Congress but refused to say what political party if any, he has joined.
Despite much speculation to the contrary, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan retained his post.
Persad-Bissessar assured the public that performance reviews will be conducted on a regular basis and further changes will be made if necessary.
The Cabinet reshuffle, however, was not up to the expectations of opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley.
He described Persad-Bissessar as a “lame duck”.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley
“The prime minister is a lame duck, operating now on incredulous utterances and insulting assertions. When the prime minister in her fourth year of chaotic government could preface her speech today (Thursday) by pointing to the three major achievements of her government as, the bailing out of CLICO, the issuing of food cards and the distribution of HDC houses then it confirms to even its greatest apologists that this government is grasping at straws since all of these were in place before they came into being.
“CLICO was bailed out by the PNM under Patrick Manning.
“Houses being distributed now were built by the PNM.
“The introduction and use of food cards were long in operation before she became prime minister.
The chaotic approach to managing our country’s affairs simply demonstrates the prime minister’s woeful inability to make sound choices in the interest of our country. Three major Cabinet reshuffles in just over 36 months are evidence of a leader that is floundering,” Rowley said.
“The public service and the entire state sector are constantly paying the price for having to deal with an unproductive Cabinet merry go round machine which is possibly one of the largest and certainly the most dysfunctional in the Commonwealth. This only serves to foster and facilitate absolute inefficiency and unprecedented levels of corruption to the delight of the minions and hangers-on that are so plentiful in this administration,” he added.
“In Trinidad and Tobago, remarkably, we have a prime minister who takes pleasure in having 41 ministers: the largest number in our nation’s history, yet government performance is the worst on record. New ministries are invented, others are chopped up willy nilly and still no one can justify these changes which cost the tax payer unnecessary tens of millions. We note that the United States has the equivalent of 22 Cabinet members serving a population of 314 million people. It can therefore be argued that if this prime minister were in charge of the affairs of the United States of America, she would on a 'per capita' basis be mandating the taxpayers there to fund a Cabinet of 9,540 persons. That is, one minister for each 33,000 citizens as she has seen fit for our nation. We are of the view that the size of the Cabinet and the number of ministers is absurd. The questions about whether this most recent Cabinet reshuffle will have any impact whatsoever, can be assessed by looking at the first two Cabinet reshuffles, which, despite all of the uncertainty and additional costs incurred, there was not a scintilla of improvement to the quality of service to the taxpayers.
“It is clear that we are in the throes of the most severe political and governance crisis that our country has ever seen.
“The country has lost all confidence in this government and this prime minister,” Rowley said.
In the past three years, Trinidad and Tobago has had two minister of health, two ministers of justice, four ministers of national security, three ministers of works, two ministers of local government, two ministers of transport, two ministers of finance, two ministers of energy, two ministers of public administration and two ministers of trade and industry.
The new ministers are:
Gary Griffith - Minister of National Security
Gerald Hadeed - Minister of Communications
Jairam Seemungal - Minister of Land and Marine Resources
Razia Amin - Minister in the Ministry of Gender
Changes in Portfolios:
Emmanuel George - Minister of Justice
Roodal Moonilal - Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Marlene Coudray - Minister of Local Government
Suruj Rambachan - Minister of Works and Infrastructure
Stephen Cadiz - Minister of Transport
Chandresh Sharma - Minister of Tourism
Rodger Samuel - Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration
Clifton De Coteau - Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development
Christlyn Moore and Jamal Mohammed have had their senatorial appointments revoked.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s speaking notes at the Post-Cabinet briefing
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. OPM
“Good afternoon to Members of Cabinet, Members of the Media, and to the viewing audience on television.
For the past two weeks, there has been speculation in the media, on the blogs, and throughout the national community, that a Cabinet realignment was in the making. I have listened to the people, I have taken my time, and I have consulted.
The local government elections are being held midterm in this administration's period in office, a low point in the popularity of most governments as evidenced recently in the United States. But just as that administration bounced back to sweep the polls, the People's Partnership stands poised to do the same.
We were elected with the highest of expectations. In fact, one can say that our coalition is victim to its own success at raising the bar in what the electorate now demands in the new dispensation. And that is good, that is the way it should and must be. That is the change you voted for.
So while there have been missteps along the way of our multi-party government, let's be clear on one thing, in just over three years, the People's Partnership has achieved, or is about to achieve so many things for the betterment of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
• The Bail-out of CLICO and HCU
• 70,000 laptops given out to Form 1 students.
• Near completion of the Overpass at Grand Bazaar
• Development of the fashion industry
• Distribution of HDC homes to hundreds of people.
• Distribution of Food Cards to thousands of persons.
• Distribution of land to hundreds of former Caroni employees
• Partial completion of the Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin
• Increase in the Senior Citizens’ Grant
• Performance of the Ministry of the People and Social Development
• Prevention of flooding on highways
• Improvement in infrastructural development throughout the country.
• The Children’s Life Fund which is saving so many lives
• Trying to create a sense of national pride
• Construction of hospitals, including the Children’s Hospital in Couva.
• Construction of schools, day care, elementary, primary and secondary.
• An improved water supply for thousands of people, especially in rural areas.
And those are just some of the dramatic shifts for the better across the nation. But we recognize that good news doesn't always make for great headlines. So the negative stuff will always feature prominently. Who's to blame? We are. We have failed in some quarters in selling our message, in informing you adequately of all that has been positively taking place. We have also failed to spend enough time among you all sharing ideas and learning from you, whether you support the government or not.
And that is going to change as well. Starting today and as promised, I have taken stock of the performances in my Government over time, examined where more needs to be done and who is best suited to perform in what area in order to accelerate the speed of delivery to meet the expectations of the public.
In this regard, I have decided to make several changes which I will formally announce in a moment.
During my last Cabinet reconfiguration, I said then that I would review performances against the demands and satisfaction of the people and would make decisive moves for further changes as you require.
This ushers in a new era of my Government. I can assure you that no one will escape scrutiny of his or her performance and satisfaction of the public interest. This is lift off time, the launch of the most aggressive development and progressive period of governance in our nation's history.
The groundwork has been laid, the foundation is there, now the transformation you elected us to achieve will occur and will do so at breathtaking pace.
But we will not do this alone. We will achieve it with you. We will embrace every group in this country. Through our diverse opinions and dreams we will not always agree on method but we will always mutually, respectfully agree to engage each other.
Decisions ultimately will be made by the government elected by the people that will not always find favour with everyone but everyone's view must be considered equally important. But having arrived at such decisions it is my duty and obligation to implement them as deemed appropriate to the development and improvement of our beloved nation.
I will not be guided merely by political considerations. It matters less to me whether decisions taken in your interest are inimical to my own political future. Let history judge me as being a leader who loved you more than she did pursuit of office. This is my solemn oath to you.
And in this regard, I hold out an olive branch to all opposition groups to work with me in making a difference to the very nation they aspire to lead. In this regard, there will be no losers, only the country wins, only the people benefit.
It is not idealistic, ironically, it is quite the opposite, it is the only practical solution to the challenges we face. When we unite, the combined power of our resources is unbeatable.
Trinidad and Tobago has been blessed with so many natural resources and gifted with such talented, inspiring people. All that has kept us back is the lack of common purpose, the discipline required, the coming together of all our resources to make this work for the benefit of all.
The battle to win your support cannot be compromised to the detriment of what is good for the country or at the risk of national security and further impoverishment. When you, the electorate, sees the genuine effort of all groups working together, you will be able to decide in peaceful ways what changes are necessary to be made and you will choose wisely accordingly.
But know this now, the only choice the country has, is for everyone to be in this together for the greater good of all. This is not the time for posturing, this is not the time for fanning fires of discontent, this is not the time to destroy, this is not the time for irresponsibility, this is the time for true leaders at all levels of our society to emerge and take their rightful place. This is the time when red, white and black is the only thing that colours our view of the world around us.
We can recall how crime all but disappeared during our World Cup football qualification. Look at the euphoria when Keshorn Walcott won our second Olympic Gold Medal in London in 2012.
Just weeks ago, Jehue Gordon won our second World Championship Gold Medal. All differences and avarice dissolved. what more could a citizen have asked for than the collective celebration of themselves in a moment of completeness, of profound understanding of who we truly are at heart, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. Proud, identified, and inspired.
It is time to reclaim that spirit. It is time for balisier, rising sun, circles, cane stalk and refinery, fist, tree and any other political symbols to be overwhelmed by national aspirations symbolised through the scarlet ibis and the flag.
For it is this, that matters most at the end of the day. If I had my will, I would form a national government comprised of all groups but our coalition government happens to be the closest ideal to that pursuit. It is an expression of several parties and interest groups. But that doesn't cancel out our ability to share authority with others who have different ideas of the path forward.
And that is one of the ideals of the National Conversation.
Let the process of collaboration replace that of confrontation. Let open hands replace clenched fists. Let us embrace opposite views rather than wrestle against them. Let us sit and eat at the same table even as we recognise the divergent views of each other.
If Mandela persuaded forgiveness and unity for the good of South Africa, if Gandhi demonstrated the power of non violence in India, if Martin Luther King could have birthed a dream for a different America why can't Daaga, Ramadhar, Rowley, Warner, London, Kamla or any other embrace the same noble aspirations for the good of all who follow us?
Ask not how this will work, ask when does it start and begin the process of collaborative politics now. I pledge my full commitment to it. No one expects the road will be easy but the world is filled with countless examples of inspired success where the history and complexity of societies proved even more challenging than ours.
I am well aware of the critics that will scramble out of everywhere to condemn this initiative of inclusion across all boundaries but I am determined to present its immense potential to the national community.
As part of the process of a reinvigorated government, I have proposed the following changes be made to my Cabinet by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Every single member listed here has been advised of the accelerated progress expected in each area for which they are responsible. Performance reviews will be conducted on a regular basis and if necessary further changes will be made. You, the citizens, will also have an opportunity to make your opinions known through the National Conversation platform.
The local government elections are upon us and I expect a tough battle and it is our objective to ensure every community is supported by a level of localised representation that ensures our accelerated development plan helps every area meets its target.
At the end of the day, we are the government with the capacity and political will to meet the needs of the people. And so as we go into local government elections each of our candidates knows what will be expected of them to deliver as never before.
The euphoria and dreams of May 2010 still echoes in hearts but has been overcome by the urgency of needs still to be met and a justifiable weariness of political battles.
The refrain of “We will rise” still resonates deeply among us but has been dulled by the cries of crime victims, we will rise is muffled too by the pain of an imperfect health care sector and the demand for more jobs. But we will rise to conquer these odds and meet these challenges.
The revolution you won cannot overcome everything within just three years. It is impossible to turn around decades of neglect in just three years. But it is not impossible for us to demand that more be done. In fact, it is an urgent requirement that your government delivers more.
We accepted the job of national restoration and while everything is not in place, I can assure you my heart is in the right place. I care more for the welfare of my country and your well being than I do anything in this world. And I will stop at nothing to ensure that you see a Trinidad and Tobago that is on the rise again.
Let not your hearts be troubled as the welfare or Trinidad and Tobago is in capable hands, your economy that wobbled on the brink of disaster when we took office has been stabilised even as the world economy totters, there has been record reduction in inflation, social programmes have been expanded, even crime which remains a huge challenge has gone from X to Y and development is no longer centered just in the city and north of the island but touches the most remote and rural of areas that were hitherto sorely neglected.
I am heartened by the response of the Honourable Leader of the Opposition to hold talks with my Government on how to find ways to deal with the crime problem, especially in the depressed areas of our country.
Too many of our young people are dying through violence. We must find a way to stop this! We have to return to the churches, temples, and mosques. Our teachers have a vital role to play from a child’s early upbringing.
We have to confront this problem from the home. We have to encourage parents to take control of their children’s lives from a very young age. It is only then, would we put a handle on the social problems affecting young people in our society.
The shift has certainly begun. But is any of this enough? No, it is not! There is so much more to be done. If 18 hours a day isn't enough for us to deliver then we shall have to give 20, find a way to power nap to recharge and deliver, deliver, deliver. No excuses. No explanations. Just execution beyond the call of duty. That is our mantra now.
I thank you for the belief in a dream we forged together. A dream which is still possible.
God bless you all, and May God bless Trinidad and Tobago.
I thank you.”