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Prakash promoted—PP front seat
It may have been President George Maxwell Richards in the spotlight at Wednesday’s start of the new parliamentary term. But some of it was also shared by COP leader Prakash Ramadhar who was seated among those on Government’s front row in the Parliament chamber that day. In the packed chamber, it may not have been easy to see Ramadhar seated four seats down from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Whether anniversary observance of sorts, one year and a week after winning COP’s leadership election on July 3, 2011, Ramadhar was shifted by the PM to join his predecessor ex-COP leader Winston Dookeran on Government’s front row. Ramadhar had held a back-bench seat since the PP assumed Government.
Ministers at Wednesday’s function sat in order of the seats they will take when the Parliament resumes in September, Communication Minister Jamal Mohammed confirmed. That means also that demoted minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, who sat behind the Government’s front row on Wednesday, will correspondingly have a new seat come September
Formerly front-row Minister of Tobago Affairs, Toppin, post reshuffle, will have traded places with recently promoted Lincoln Douglas. Since 2012, Douglas was on PP’s furthest Parliament backbench - behind the Opposition—but will move up to behind Government’s front row.
Wednesday’s Government line-up in the House from the top of the Government front bench was: PP House Leader Roodal Moonilal, Persad-Bissessar, MPs Jack Warner, Dookeran, Errol Mc Leod, Chandresh Sharma, Ramadhar, Tim Gopeesingh, Winston Peters, Suruj Rambachan, Carolyn Seepersad- Bachan.
Those on Government’s back bench in the new term will sit as they sat—further down the Government line—on Wednesday: MPs Herbert Volney, Anil Roberts, Stephen Cadiz, Nizam Baksh, Rupert Griffith, Glenn Ramadharsingh, Clifton de Coteau, Fuad Khan, Douglas, Rudy Indarsingh.
On the back row on Wednesday and destined for Government’s back bench behind the Opposition: Deputy Speaker Nela Khan, Ministers of State Rodger Samuel, Stacy Roopnarine, Ramona Ramdial, Toppin, Colin Partap, Jairam Seemungal.
While Toppin’s placement manifests her slippage from grace, Ramadhar’s front-bench promotion— closer to his boss—confirms increased COP status and an attempt at tightening coalition ranks after the MSJ’s June departure.
This, despite COP’s criticisms of some PP issues and subsequent chiding Ramadhar suffered for this. Still, he may be vindicated that his COP victory prediction last July— “turbulent waters ahead”—has materialised. His “promotion” now prompts speculation about if Ramadhar will be chosen to act as PM when Persad-Bissessar travels.
President Richards’ address to parliamentarians would have left many with much to ponder after his frankly dispensed cautionary words. While it may have struck at Government’s modus operandi—or the PNM’s as PP’s Fazal Karim later spun it—statements definitely struck a note with the Opposition on its various complaints against the Government.
Indeed, during the address, Richards received accompanying PNM encouragement with Marlene McDonald’s declared “Excellent!” and Terrence Deyalsingh’s loud “Ouch!” in the Government’s direction. It prompted PP’s Moonilal to retort to McDonald if she’d written Richards’ speech and for other PP MPs to urge McDonald to restrain her glee.
While Parliament’s third session opened only to give way to a two-month break until mid-September— when the 2013 budget is expected to be presented—legislative members again come together today for a six hour parliamentary workshop at Tobago’s Magdalena Grand Beach Resort (MGBR), it was confirmed.
This follows the executive’s Cabinet meeting and retreat at Coco Reef hotel over Thursday and yesterday. PP’s Mohammed said he and other ministers were staying at Coco Reef while in Tobago and would be transported to Magdalena for today’s workshop. He said Opposition parliamentarians and independent senators were booked at Magdalena.
PNM’s Colm Imbert said while Magdalena accommodation was available he didn’t know if all PNM members would stay there since he noted, for instance, PNM leader Keith Rowley has a Tobago house. PNM PRO Faris Al-Rawi said PNM senators and MPs were attending. Up to 4.30 pm yesterday, he said, he had to get confirmation only from PNM’s Amery Browne. He said “most” may return tonight.
MGBR general manager Vince Angelo said the workshop carried a corporate group rate of US$210 per room per night. One parliamentary estimate for the workshop cost is around $300,000. Funding includes European Union grant. Absent will be PNM’s Patrick Manning whose parliamentary leave ends July 24. Some PNMites expect Manning may return from US recuperation after his 66th birthday on August 17.
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