“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has assumed responsibility for the Ministry of the People and Social Development following her firing of Caroni Central MP Glenn Ramadharsingh from the position. The announcement was first made by Persad-Bissessar on Twitter yesterday, before she sent a release to the media and then confirmed her decision during a tea party she hosted to celebrate International Women’s Day, which was recognised on March 8.
Ramadharsingh was removed from his portfolio on Tuesday, following an incident in which he was accused of behaving inappropriately with a flight attendant on a Caribbean Airlines flight from Tobago. After meeting for three hours with Ramadharsingh on Tuesday, Persad-Bissessar advised President Anthony Carmona to revoke his appointment. However, she did not immediately name a successor.
In an interview following yesterday’s tea party, Persad-Bissessar said she felt her taking up the ministry was the most appropriate decision for her, describing it as “a personal creation” which was very close to her heart. She said the ministry was a promise she made to the nation that was delivered in 2010 and the work of the ministry was important to the vision of poverty eradication, the achievement of social justice and the empowerment of people.
“I felt it would be appropriate in the transition to assume the responsibility for that ministry. It is part of my vision and what I want to achieve,” the PM said. She expressed uncertainty about what could be done with the ministry, given the “shortness of time” (before the next general election) but expressed no intention to hand over responsibility to any other individual. “At the moment I am not looking for a replacement. I have assumed responsibility for the ministry at this time.”
She said the ministry would not merge with the Office of the Prime Minister and the budgets would remain separate. “It would be one minister with responsibility for two ministries, that is the office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Social Development,” Persad-Bissessar said. Persad-Bissessar said she decided to remove Ramadharsingh from his portfolio after being informed of the situation and speaking with him, noting she felt it was the appropriate action.
Persad-Bissessar is expected to meet with the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Social Development to discuss issues, such as staffing and ongoing projects. The meeting will take place after today’s Cabinet meeting. “I will also ask my permanent secretary to liaise with the permanent secretary in that ministry so that I may go to the ministry by Friday (tomorrow). We start hitting the ground from tomorrow,” she said. She also thanked Ramadharsingh for his service and his work in developing the ministry.
Earlier, she had commented on the necessity of making difficult decisions and said she would always do what was right for the greater good of the country. Asked whether there was any doubt about Ramadharsingh’s commitment to the People’s Partnership Government, considering his removal, she said: “He has been a very committed loyal soldier of the UNC (United National Congress). I have no reason to believe he will become a rogue MP.”