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New ministers ready to prove themselves

Published: 
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
President Anthony Carmona, left, and Prime Minister Keith Rowley, right, with newly-appointed Cabinet Ministers Kazim Hosein, second from left, and Rohan Sinanan, after the swearing-in ceremony, yesterday. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Rosemarie Sant

Newly-appointed Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan says he is humbled by the confidence placed in him by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley “to run one of the largest ministries at a time when the country needs the Ministry of Works to get going.” 

He is promising to “work in the interest of the country and the people.”

Sinanan, who ran the People’s National Movement’s successful 2015 general election campaign, replaces Fitzgerald Hinds as Works and Transport Minister. Hinds has been reassigned to the Public Utilities Ministry following the dismissal of retired Brigadier Ancil Antoine.

Also getting the axe in yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle was Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre, who has been replaced by former Rural Development and Local Government Minister Franklin Khan. The new Minister of Rural Development and Local Government is former San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein.

Sinanan, a deputy political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM), admitted his new ministerial responsibilities would be a challenge, “especially with the economic circumstances because the Ministry of Works is where you need a heavy bud

He said he planned to give it his all and would “scrutinise the award of contracts” given questions raised under the former administration.

Sinanan said he intended to meet with the permanent secretary and senior ministry staff to chart the way forward. 

“My job is to make sure Government policy is implemented within the framework of a detailed plan,” he said.

Among the projects on the table are the Valencia to Toco Highway, the Wallerfield to Manzanilla Highway, continuation of the Point Fortin Highway and the Chaguaramas causeway. 

He said he intended to make sure that he lived up to his oath of office and not disappoint people who put their trust in him. He said his objective was to “serve the people and the country to the best of my ability.”

Curiously, following the official announcement of Sinanan’s appointment a story published in December last year started circulating on social media about a 50th birthday party at his Valsayn home which was attended by Prime Minister Rowley.

Among the guests were Jack Warner and businessman Ishwar Galbaransingh, both of whom are currently challenging extradition request by US authorities.

Reports also surfaced that Sinanan bought land once occupied by the Kay Donna Drive-in Cinema which is earmarked to be acquired for the Curepe Interchange. 

He told the T&T Guardian: “While it is true I do have an interest in the land which was once occupied by the Kay Donna Cinema along with other shareholders, what has been circulating is very untrue. Now they will see the truth.”

Sinanan said he also owned property in Valsayn and Sangre Grande but denied he owned land in Toco. He also dismissed as “garbage” claims that he was paid money by the Government.

In the case of Khan, while this is the first time he has been appointed Energy Minister, he is no stranger to the sector. 

“I am a petroleum geologist and I worked for over two decades in the industry, so that is my professional training. I intend to bring my expertise to bear on the Ministry of Energy,” he said.

Khan, the chairman of the PNM, has served on the Cabinet Standing Committee on Energy in both the Patrick Manning and Keith Rowley administrations and said he is “reasonably familiar with some of the issues.” 

Asked whether there would be any conflict of interest in his new portfolio given his involvement in the sector in a previous incarnation, Khan said: “I have no interest in any energy sector companies as we speak.”

More info

In the Cabinet reshuffle announced via a press release from the Office of the Prime Minister, the former San Fernando Mayor replaces Sarah Budhu in the Senate and now holds the Rural Development and Local Government portfolio previously held by Khan. Budhu contested the seat for Caroni East for the PNM in the last general election but was unsuccessful.

Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young is now Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.