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Question mark over Marlene’s resignation

Saturday, March 19, 2016
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, left, and Opposition Chief Whip Ganga Singh speak during the tea break at the sitting of Parliament yesterday. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Will she or won’t she?

Amid rising debate on whether dismissed minister Marlene McDonald should step down as PNM’s Member of Parliament for Port-of-Spain South, a brief comment from McDonald yesterday seemed to hint she may not have that on her mind at the moment.

“That question doesn’t arise...” she said very briefly when asked by T&T Guardian about stepping down.

The phone then clicked off.

Following on the heels of the prime minister’s revocation of McDonald’s ministerial portfolio on Thursday, debate arose yesterday on calls for and against her staying on as MP. 

Weighing in on the matter were her former rivals for the Port-of-Spain South candidacy in the 2015 election, former mayor Louis Lee Sing and former councillor Isha Wells. The former called for her to step down, but the latter said she should not.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley on Thursday revoked McDonald’s ministerial appointment following a third set of allegations against her. The latest claim involved alleged breach of parliamentary rules based on allegations that McDonald’s common-law spouse Michael Carew was hired among 13 members of her constituency office over the last term.

It was further alleged that Carew’s brother, Lennox, also worked at McDonald’s Port-of-Spain South office at one period during the last term, and both men commanded high salaries of over $10,000. The matter has been sent by the Fixin T&T group to the police and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for investigation. 

Two other sets of allegations against McDonald—regarding periods when she served during the previous Manning PNM administration—and also concerning her common-law spouse are before the Integrity Commission as well.

McDonald was somewhat terse in brief comments to T&T Guardian, but otherwise seemed in good spirits. 

Family sources said she went to the doctor yesterday.

Following the dismissal, McDonald didn’t show up for yesterday’s parliament session, although a new seat was ready and waiting for her on the government’s backbench—well away from her former frontbench seat close to the Prime Minister.

Her original frontbench seat was changed to the third seat from the end of the government’s backbench.

Her new seat is among non-cabinet members including Laventille East MP Adrian Leonce, Moruga MP Lovell Francis and Toco/Sangre Grande MP Glenda Jennings-Smith.

Following two other Cabinet realignments which the Prime Minister also made when he removed McDonald, MP San Fernando East MP Randall Mitchell, who replaces McDonald in Housing, was shifted from the backbench to the government frontbench.

Minister in Legal Affairs and the Attorney General’s Office, Stuart Young (Port-of-Spain North MP), whose portfolio was expanded to include serving in the Prime Minister’s office, has also been moved up several seats on the Government front row. He now sits where McDonald once sat, close to the PM.

Prior to yesterday’s parliament session, PNM chairman Franklin Khan, responding to media queries on whether McDonald would be replaced as PNM deputy leader or if she would be retaining the Port-of-Spain South seat, said he would reserve comment for after today’s PNM general council meeting. 

He maintained that line when asked his personal view on the removal. Khan said the dismissal was the prime minister’s call.

Other PNM officials said the McDonald issue would be aired at today’s meeting.