When Deon Peters woke up yesterday he thought he was still dreaming.
Peters woke up in his own bed yesterday after spending more than ten months behind bars.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night fired Minister of the People and Social Development Dr Glenn Ramdharsingh amid mounting public pressure over his behaviour on a domestic flight from Tobago. Persad-Bissessar made the announcement in a release moments after a three-hour meeting with Ramadharsingh at her Philippine, San Fernando, home, saying she had given President Anthony Carmona instructions to revoke his ministerial appointment.
However, the Caroni Central MP, who had given the PM a report on the incident during the meeting, ducked media personnel camped outside Persad-Bissessar’s residence waiting to interview him after the meeting. He reportedly waited to leave the residence after journalists left.
In explaining the decision, Persad-Bissessar said she had “insisted from the moment we took office that every one of us must display a sound character of public integrity, fairness, humility, compassion and human dignity.
“No man, nor woman for that matter, has been allowed, nor will be permitted to deviate from the very principles upon which we were elected by the people into office.” The PM’s action came after a media report highlighted an incident involving Ramdharsingh and flight attendant Ronelle Laidlow aboard a domestic flight from Tobago to Trinidad last Sunday.
The report claimed Ramadharsingh refused to follow instructions to move his luggage, threatened to use his authority to get Laidlow fired and inappropriately touched the woman’s breast when he attempted to removed her identification badge, which was pinned to her blouse, as he left the plane.
The MP subsequently apologised for his disorderly behaviour on the flight, saying he was extremely fatigued and not feeling well following a busy schedule in Tobago. However, he denied inappropriately touching Laidlow.
No one exempt
But last night, Persad-Bissessar said no one in her Cabinet would be allowed to get away with improper conduct. “As I have always said, regardless of the consequences, I remain resolved to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. My decisions in the past demonstrate this consistency regardless of whether you are in my Cabinet or not. No one is exempt from the measure of value based leadership,” she said.
Since the incident was made public there have been numerous calls for the minister’s dismissal. One of the loudest voices was Maha Sabha secretary general Satnarayan Maharaj. Last night in an interview with CNC3 news, Maharaj welcomed the PM’s action, saying she showed “strength of conviction” in dismissing Ramadharsingh from her cabinet.
Persad-Bissessar did not name a replacement for Ramadharsingh last night. However, Minister in the Ministry of Works Stacy Roopnarine has been tipped to replace him. The T&T Guardian understands that Roopnarine also met with the PM yesterday, hours before the announcement of Ramadharsingh’s dismissal. Ramadharsingh now joins the list of ministers who have fallen under the Prime Minister’s axe since she took office in May 2010.
Among the casualties of the Prime Minister’s axe are: Collin Partap, Herbert Volney (former Justice minister), Jack Warner (former national security minister), Mary King (former planning minister), John Sandy (former national security minister) and Therese Baptiste-Cornelis (former health minister).
PM’s full statement
“While I was overseas attending a funeral of a family friend I received reports of an incident concerning the Honourable Minister of the People, Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh. “Upon my return I requested reports from the said minister and the relevant authorities. Having read these reports and after meeting with the minister I have arrived at a decision on the way forward. “All my considerations are character driven. I hold no brief for any man or woman save the greater public interest.
“I am always aware of the higher expectation upon which this government was elected and the immense responsibility each of us has to uphold public trust in all we do every single day of our lives. It is not a responsibility we can choose to have one day and lose the next. “I am reminded of Gandhi’s identification of one of seven social sins as being ‘politics without principle.’
“I have insisted from the moment we took office that everyone of us must display a sound character of public integrity, fairness, humility, compassion and human dignity. “No man, nor woman for that matter, has been allowed nor will be permitted to deviate from the very principles upon which we were elected by the people into office. “I know there will be arguments put forward by some as to what was condoned in the past administration to allow for continuity but I disagree.
“There must be no compromise on integrity, no allowance for arrogance, no room for violation of mutual respect; there will be no sacrifice of our values on the altar of political expediency. “Regardless of whether the decisions I take hurt me politically or not, I have the strength and courage and independence of mind to measure every tough decision on the basis of what is right and just. “As I have always said, regardless of the consequences, I remain resolved to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
“My decisions in the past demonstrate this consistency regardless of whether you are in my Cabinet or not. No one is exempt from the measure of value based leadership. “In the circumstances, I have advised the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency, Justice Anthony Carmona, to revoke the appointment of the Honourable Minister of the People, Dr Glen Ramadharsingh.”
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