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Polishing PP, PNM performance
There were two new faces among Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s team on the Government front bench at yesterday’s House of Representatives session. But the presence of Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie and Gender Affairs Minister Verna St Rose- Greaves’ was not a preview of the PM’s Cabinet reshuffle to come.
Both members of the Upper House were merely guesting in the Lower House to speak about issues under their respective ministries. Indeed, yesterday’s final sitting of the second session of Parliament—before Parliament prorogues on June 26—was to start to put closure to issues which have been on the back burner since the last administration: procurement procedure and the children protection bill.
Government has made a concerted effort to get both going in the current parliamentary session. Yesterday Government officials said the third session of Parliament may be-gin by the end of July. They said Persad-Bissessar has to attend the annual Caricom summit in St Lucia in early July and is also expected to accept an invitation to visit China in July.
This weekend the PM is expected to put final touches to her Cabinet realignment. A spokesman said yesterday Persad-Bissessar has interviewed all senator ministers and most of her ministers up to Thursday’s Cabinet meeting. Bemused about some of the speculation on possible shifts being proffered in some quarters, spokesmen said they expected announcement on the results of her perform- ance assessment sometime next week, after Labour Day.
In her info-gathering exercise, Persad-Bissessar will not only get an idea of how the ministers have fared, but also, from their responses, a good idea of what challenges her government may face ahead. If the PM is still working out her reconfiguration, her team’s parliamentary performance may require some brushing up mid-term also.
It has been slow going where some aspects of the parliamentary agenda is concerned. The PP has attempted to secure its political standing on security issues with crime-related and social legislation, and its focus will be moving to economic aspects as it seeks to steady the country through the fall-out of the assorted global economic crises.
Government has however also started faltering on its sparkling record of answering Opposition questions on the agenda. The administration had started the term with the bright record of reply (and crowed about it proudly). But most recently the Government has been deferring some questions. Yesterday’s sitting ended with the PP answering only one of the 12 questions on the agenda.
“No,no, no!” complained the PNM side, “we need the questions to be answered.” In the absence of Opposition Leader Keith Rowley—on parliamentary leave until June 25—it was PNM MP Colm Imbert who took the lead in yesterday’s House issues for the PNM, challenging Government to come with full-fledged procurement legislation.
PNM leadership clash with youth leaguer
The PNM also had representation outside the Parliament yesterday where UWI students were advocating a national gender policy. PNM Senator Faris Al-Rawi may have been forthcoming in speaking with them. But some youthful members are looking askance at the PNM leadership after last weekend’s party discussion on PNM constitutional reform proposals.
Continuing internal framework tweaking, the PNM hit a bump during the reform discussions when a youth league member took issue with PNM leader Rowley’s proposal for a one man-one vote system, members said. They said Rowley and another executive member retorted in what was perceived to be an “uncharitable” (sic) way to the youth league member in the public forum and a certain contribution was described as “moribund.”
Other senior PNMites subsequently voiced concern about the way the situation was handled. There are concerns in the party that Rowley’s one man-one vote proposal will stymie democracy in party voting rather than deepen it and that the current delegate system is more equitable.
PNM chairman Franklin Khan yesterday said, “Much debate arose on the one man-one vote issue at both PNM constitutional reform forums we had in South and St Augustine. The political leader clearly articulated the call for the party to go towards this and we listened to some of the dissenting voices on it.
“Democracy in PNM allows that you can represent a point of view, but you have to be conscious it may be rebutted or refuted. But by and large there seemed to be consensus that the party should go on this vote. The constitution committee will have to make recommendations for adoption by the General Council before the one man-one vote proposal can reach our September convention.”
Khan added, “In the end the party will have to bite the bullet on the issue but we’ll do it in a democratic way. Whatever recommendations will have to be sanctioned by council before it goes to convention. In our system the leadership can’t railroad its view on members.” Khan was uncertain if the leadership/youth league member clash would be discussed at today’s General Council meeting.
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