New Planning Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, who had been a CL Financial director, had held discussions with the Central Bank Governor even before the CL crisis loomed. Tewarie confirmed this, speaking briefly about his involvement with CL after his appointment yesterday as the new Minister of Planning, Economic and Social Restructuring and Genders Affairs Minister. Tewarie comes to Government from the post of UWI pro-vice chancellor in charge of Planning and Development and a broad background in academia, politics and business. Tewarie replaces former minister Mary King who was fired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Tuesday amid allegations of wrongdoing. This concerns a Planning Ministry contract awarded to a King family firm.
Persad-Bissessar yesterday thanked King for her services as Tewarie was sworn into office at Knowsley Building, Queen's Park West. President George Maxwell Richards, who administered the oath of office, lauded Tewarie. He noted that both had served together at UWI and that Tewarie had succeeded him as UWI principal. Tewarie has had a strong background in T&T's politics, business and academia in the last 30 years. He played a large role in shaping the People's Partnership election manifesto, PP officials said. Originally from St Augustine, Tewarie taught at San Fernando Government Secondary School and UWI. He was involved in the Tapia Movement, served as NAR general secretary and an NAR government minister and was a Caroni East MP. He also served as principal of UWI, executive director of UWI's Institute of Business and, among others, with Republic Bank, CL Financial Ltd and the Trinidad Publishing Co board.
Persad-Bissessar said: "His wealth of experience and knowledge will serve the Government in good stead." Tewarie admitted that the Planning ministerial post came with "mixed feelings," since King was a friend of his. On his former link with CL Financial, Tewarie said: "I made the contribution that I could there...There is a story to tell about that, but this is not the time or place. "All I would say is that before any crisis even loomed, I had conversations with the Governor of the Central Bank," he said. He said he might have been around when the decision-making process in 2009 was made to pay Clico dividends in 2009. Tewarie said: "I cannot remember, I may have, I cannot remember the exact timing, I may have-I don't know...The records would indicate whether I did or not."
Tewarie said he had had "serious obligations" at UWI and had to weigh those kinds of decisions before accepting the ministerial post. He, however, added: "I'm happy the Prime Minister had the confidence in me to invite me into the Cabinet. "It was a hard decision...but I'm happy to be on board and I want to do the best I can for T&T and make the best contribution I can to Government and I want to support the Prime Minister to be a high-achieving Prime Minister in TT-she has started very well." On priorities, Tewarie said his first would be to align ministerial action in the ministry to the PP's manifesto commitment. He said he would also examine the extent of the connectedness between Planning and the other ministries as part of a Cabinet team.
He said his other priority would be to work cohesively with his colleagues and the team "to make things happen." President Richards said he took particular pleasure in administering the oath of office to Tewarie because of their former UWI ties. "I have known him for large number of years...and I know him particularly well in academic life," Richards added. Richards said Tewarie had exhibited considerable skills, finesse and use of vast knowledge to bring effort in their early days at UWI. "He will, I'm sure, perform creditably and bring his vast experience, skills and talents to bear on his new assignment," the President added.
Witnessing Tewarie take the oath of office yesterday were his wife Kamla, his parents Dabiedatt and Ramdai Tewarie, and his son and daughter-in-law, Nirad and Cheryle Tewarie. Also present were COP leader Winston Dookeran, MSJ leader Errol McLeod and UNC's Jack Warner and Roodal Moonilal. Tewarie takes up duties today when he attends the weekly Cabinet meeting and then goes to the Planning Ministry. He will be sworn in as a Government senator next Tuesday.