And she’s fired again.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Tuesday sacked Marlene McDonald for yet another time in as many days—this time from the post of deputy leader of the ruling PNM.
And all McDonald remains with now, is her position as PNM’s Port-of-Spain South representative, a position to which constituents elected her on November 5, 2007 and again on September 7, 2015.
Rowley took to Facebook to announce his decision.
“I have today revoked the appointment of Ms Marlene McDonald as deputy political leader of the PNM.” Late Sunday, he advised the Office of the President to revoke McDonald’s appointment as the Minister of Public Administration.
The move followed last Sunday’s action by police to charge McDonald for seven offences, regarding alleged misbehaviour in public office, conspiracy to defraud the state and money laundering. Four other men were placed on a total of 49 charges also, including McDonald’s long-time companion Michael Carew.
Immediately as police moved to charge McDonald, Government announced that her post as Public Administration Minister was being revoked via a statement from the Communications Ministry.
However, the replacement announced by the PM’s office—attorney and PNM senator Garvin Simonette—declined just before he was sworn in, due to the disclosure of a 2014 driving under the influence charge in the US. He also resigned as a PNM senator.
Rowley’s removal of McDonald from PNM’s deputy leadership will require filling the vacancy left.
Apart from McDonald, other deputies are Joan Yuille-Williams, Works Minister Rohan Sinanan and PNM Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles.
Rowley cut McDonald out of the leadership ahead of tonight’s PNM screening team meeting to assess Local Government nominees.
Rowley, PNM deputies and executive members comprise the screening team.
PNM officials said the party can’t remove McDonald from the Port-of-Spain South seat as she was elected by constituents.
There was speculation the party will be gauging the area’s “temperature” tomorrow when Rowley speaks at a public meeting at City Hall, Port-of-Spain entitled “Let’s Talk Port of Spain—Path To Progress”.
Rowley is expected to respond to McDonald and subsequent issues.
Before she was charged, he said he had to await the outcome of investigations. He later said he was prepared to act once decisions were made. But he has not spoken publicly since.
Senior PNMites said Rowley was going to the people “...Since he’s had two significant ‘lashes’ - McDonald and the failed Simonette appointment- so he’s going to face things.”
One PNM MP added, “Developments (with McDonald) took everybody by surprise, people are ‘feeling’ the situation. That the party’s been affected is a reality, but not to the extent that some say or some want. Some have had sympathy for Marlene and that’s helped.”
After McDonald was charged, PNM Port-of-Spain South officials said on Tuesday they did not want to comment.
But one of McDonald’s strongest supporters in her constituency told Guardian Media, “We can understand her being removed as minister and deputy PNM leader. But I don’t think she’ll give up the seat. She’s a fighter, she battles for her constituents and she’ll fight (charges) to the end also. If they choose to select someone else for 2020 is up to them but it doesn’t make sense for us to remove an MP now with elections so close.”
Party officials noted PNM MPs Eric Williams and Franklin Khan did not step down from constituencies when they had court issues.
They noted ex-UNC MP Jack Warner did so from Chaguanas West in 2013 after a negative Concacaf report against him. But he fought a by-election with his ILP party and retook the seat.
Parliament officials said no by-election can take place for a seat after September 23—the fourth anniversary of the convening of the current Parliament—since by-elections cannot be held in the last year of a term.
PNM officials said once McDonald doesn’t step down as MP, she’ll be shifted (back) to the last seat on Government’s Parliament backbench. She had occupied that seat when she was fired from Public Utilities in 2017. She was shifted up the backbench when she was appointed to Public Administration in 2018. The last seat is currently occupied by PNM’s Maxie Cuffie, Public Administration’s Parliamentary Secretary.
•Removed from Housing Ministry in 2016 after she authorised an HDC house to her companion Michael Carew.
•Rehired as Public Utilities Minister in June 2017; fired three days later in July 2017, after inviting a reputed gang leader to her swearing-in at President’s House.
• Rehired as junior Minister in Public Administration/Communication March 2018, made full Public Administration and Communication Minister but lost Communication to Stuart Young in June 2018 during a reshuffle.
• Removed from Public Administration on August 12, 2019.
• Removed from PNM deputy leadership a day later.