The Ministry of the People and Social Development will be dismantled and replaced with a Rural Development Ministry established if the People's National Movement (PNM) forms the next government of Trinidad and Tobago. Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley announced this at a cottage meeting at the Basse Terre Community Centre, Moruga, on Tuesday night where the party celebrated its 56th anniversary. Coincidentally, at that same time, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was celebrating her second year as political leader of the United National Congress UNC) with a mass rally at the Rienzi Complex, Couva. Rowley, who told PNM supporters preparations for local and general election are ongoing, expressed confidence that PNM will form the next government.
The Opposition Leader said logistically rural communities are always left behind. "In order to ensure that rural communities are not left behind as we progress as a nation there will be in the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago a Minister of Rural Development whose responsibility will be to co-ordinate what the nation has to offer to ensure that rural communities get their fair share and they get it in a timely manner," he told the gathering. Rowley said the way social services are assessed would be a major development in a PNM government. "We will have no Ministry of the People," he declared, noting that all ministries are ministries of the people. He said the country lacks a proper Ministry of Social Services through which public officers and social workers could go to every nook and cranny in the country and provide services.
During the meeting, party supporters expressed concern that employees of the Community Enhancement and Environment Protection Programme (CEPEP) and Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) were threatened with loss of pay or jobs if they did not attend Persad-Bissessar's anniversary celebrations. Rowley pointed out that Rienzi was for cowards, symbolised by the colour yellow and said on election day people would be free to cast their vote next to the balisier symbol. During the meeting Rowley welcomed senior counsel Ernest Koylass, who gave a maiden speech to the PNM family. He said the party's doors are open to anyone interested in joining.
Even as former prime minister Patrick Manning is warded at hospital after suffering a stroke on Monday night, Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley says the work of the People's National Movement (PNM) will continue. Responding to criticism that the event should have been postponed as a mark of respect to Manning, Rowley said, "Mr Manning is hospitalised so let us not behave as though the worst has happened. We acknowledge that he is ill, gravely ill. We are hoping that he makes a very good recovery, but in the meantime we will continue our work in the expectation that he will recover. Lets not behave as though the worst has happened, okay," said Rowley.