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Marlene fired again
In what’s probably the shortest-lived Government appointment in recent memory, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday fired Marlene McDonald from his Cabinet (again) after he had re-appointed her to office just three days ago. In fact, McDonald didn’t even have time to move into the Public Utilities Ministry for which she had been announced last Thursday and for which she’d taken the oath of office at President’s House, St Ann’s, last Friday.
And her Port-of-Spain South constituents - like Kenroy Dopwell - are now hurt and angry enough to urge her to challenge Rowley for the leadership in next year’s People’s National Movement (PNM) election.
“I done - I can’t support something or a leader that don’t support we or my MP, so we go support she to fight the PNM leadership in 2018. Or resign and form she own party. You can’t get divorce twice and stay in a marriage,” Dopwell added yesterday.
Following the Prime Minister’s revocation of McDonald’s appointment as Public Utilities Minister, he’s now taken on the duties of that ministry in addition to his own.
It was the second sacking for McDonald, whose previous ministerial appointment as Housing Minister was revoked in March 2016 after she became subject of Integrity Commission and police investigations regarding certain allegations. Those involved a close associate and matters pertaining to issues at the Calabar Foundation and at the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).
This time, McDonald was removed following concern in and out of the Government - including social media criticism - regarding her appearance at last Friday’s swearing-in function at President’s House.
At the function with her was Cedric ‘Burkie” Burke, a Sea Lots community leader who was detained in the 2011 state of emergency and charged with being a gang leader. He was subsequently freed.
The T&T Guardian confirmed that pictures of McDonald and Burke at the President’s House function were brought to the attention of Rowley - head of T&T’s National Security Council - last Friday evening moments after they began surfacing on social media. PNM sources said he was definitely “not pleased.”
The PM was said to have contacted McDonald that night and she was asked to submit a resignation by noon Saturday. It’s understood, however, that she asked for time and to see him at 9 am yesterday.
Last Saturday, OPM Minster Stuart Young had said Rowley was chairman of the NSC and as such was “in possession of certain information,” had “certain concerns” and would “address the concerns.”
McDonald met the PM around 10 am yesterday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s. Also present was the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office.
McDonald was given the revocation letter, it was confirmed. A source indicated that the Prime Minister “did most of the talking.” McDonald later left in her SUV with the windows rolled up, refusing to take questions from media waiting outside.
A statement subsequently issued by the PM’s Office at 1.08 pm stated: “Prime Minister the Honourable Dr Keith Rowley has today advised President Anthony Carmona to revoke the appointment of Ms. Marlene McDonald, Minister of Public Utilities with immediate effect.
“Ms. McDonald was recently sworn in as Minister in the Ministry of Public Utilities after a sixteen (16) month period of absence from the Cabinet.”
The statement also advised that the Public Utilities portfolio would be assigned to the PM.
Government sources said Rowley had to balance all aspects of the situation, party, as well as Government, and the matter that occurred with McDonald was the “essence of an unforced error” of her making.
McDonald didn’t answer calls yesterday. But sources close to her said she was “very disappointed “ and in a pensive mood initially. They said she spent most of the day speaking to friends and was in a better frame of mind later in the day. She also spoke to members of her constituency, including Dopwell.
On McDonald’s state of mind hours after her firing, Dopwell said, “She’s disciplined, she’s ready, I suppose to pick up the pieces and work again in PNM’s interest.”
But he also vented his anger about the situation.
The T&T Guardian understands a number of proposals were being put to McDonald yesterday apart from contesting internal PNM polls.
McDonald, however, hasn’t responded on whether she would give up the PoS South seat, after what several supporters say is great public embarrassment. PoS South officials indicated she may hold an open meeting with constituents at PoS City Hall later this week.
Jean Elder, chairman of McDonald’s PNM PoS South constituency, said yesterday, “The way I feel? ...I’m keeping it to myself and Ms McDonald. But of course there’s a lot of disappointment.”
But Elder said McDonald “is a strong woman” and didn’t think McDonald would give up the seat.
“People crying all over Sea Lots!”
This was the pained cry of Sea Lots businessman Kenroy Dopwell, who had been at President’s House with MP Marlene McDonald last Friday.
“This is a strong face I have here, but I done pelt out my belly already. It come like you had hope and all your hope now fall down! Because of social media!” Dopwell said as he sat outside a building in Sea Lots yesterday.
“Is from celebration to sorrow we gone yes. Was 48 hours of joy, proud moment for Port-of-Spain South, proud moment for hotspot areas - you was just a hero, get the fifth largest ministry in the Government, you ent even walk in the building - then they fire you!”
Meanwhile the man who inadvertently led to Mc Donald’s firing, Cedric Burke, who Dopwell said was also a mobiliser for McDonald in the area, meanwhile declined comment on her firing, save to say “We is cockroach in fowl party.”
Dopwell said Burke was “in a mess ... it come like she lose she work because of him.”
Dopwell, who has supported McDonald since she became MP, had plenty venting to do.
“... And we don’t intend to burn tyres and block road like everybody expect, we handling this different, like a new PNM. So we ready to work for her to challenge Rowley for the leadership in 2018.
“You can’t support something that not supporting you. If we not supporting my MP, then I can’t support him and if he’s the leader, I can no longer support the party. This is a most difficult constituency, Marlene manage it for five years in Opposition and 16 months out of a ministry and we was good.”
Dopwell said he knew people expected a fiery response from the constituency.
“The police already call me today,” he said.
“We help bring these people (PNM) into government and this is the treatment? (Name called) and dem is dog, boy! If it was a member of the one per cent, she woulda been going in office in the morning - but is the colour of the skin.”
Dopwell was extremely bitter and caustic in his criticism of Rowley.
“You not supporting your own? You against one of your best people? We seeing now what (Manning) say... You fire somebody for social media? Kamla have more testicular fortitude!
“Your best lieutenant, stand up there with you, she swallow all what Kamla and dem push down PNM throat, she take sleepless nights - defended you, and the PNM. She work to restore PNM back. They go get what coming ...”