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The Cabinet Reshuffle
It is public knowledge that from 1956 to 1986, Dr Eric Williams did not have a Hindu in his Cabinet. In 1986 when the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) took the reigns of government, it was felt that the race dynamic was quelled and a new order was established. However, time proved that this coalition did not succeed.
It is argued by many that coalition politics promotes the best type of democracy. It provides its own check and balance and serves all the people. The various political elements within any coalition have their own individual base to serve and their “must-haves.” Having such competing interests among the member groups is a constructive approach in satisfying all sectors.
This new approach to politics fosters equity in distribution and creates a new type of governance structure, one that works bottom-up rather than top-down. The idea behind coalitions shows a government working in the interests of the majority of the population. Across the democratic world there are coalition governments in Canada, Australia, India, Greece, Italy and even the home of de-mocracy, the UK. Some observers claim that the US Government is a coalition of political forces.
The People’s Partnership Government saw its second reshuffle after two years in office. From our observations it is quite evident that the first reshuffle was to break Jack Warner and the recent reshuffle was to make Jack Warner. It is a good sign to supporters of the United National Congress that its leader is not a puppet as many believe. Jack had for some time stepped out of line and the political leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, did what was necessary. Today, both of them are working in tandem. This undoubtedly is a good sign for the future of the partnership.
With its present configuration, the Cabinet now holds 32 members including the Prime Minister. Out of this 32 there are 12 Hindu members which represent about 37.5 per cent. Muslim members total four, contributing about 12.5 per cent and members belonging to the Christian faith are 16, which amount to 50 per cent. The population statistics has shown that Hindus make up about 25 per cent of the population, Muslims six per cent and Catholics 26 per cent.
Other Christian faiths such as the Anglicans contribute up to 11 per cent with a smaller percentage for Presbyterians and Pentecostals. Overall the Cabinet under Mrs Persad-Bissessar is a true representation of the country’s religious demography. It is probably the first time in our country’s independent history that such representation has been achieved.
The movement of Warner to the position of National Security Minister is considered by many to be a blessing in disguise. Jack has fast become known as the pin-up poster superhero in the political world. There is no question in our mind that once Warner lowers the crime rate the People’s Partnership will be assured a second term in office.
The introduction of Jamal Mohammed is also another good move by the Prime Minister. Mohammed is genetically politician material and also adds to the voice of Muslims in the Cabinet. The biggest shocker was the entrance of Ganga Singh into the Cabinet as Minister of the Environment and Water Resources. Again, another excellent choice as Ganga had developed the reputation of being an iron-fisted politician under the Panday adminis- tration.
The feeling was common throughout the country and within the Cabinet that Winston Dookeran was going to be removed as the Minister of Finance. Larry Howai’s reputation as a colossal banker is yet to translate into being a good Finance Minister. However, the enthusiasm with which he has started looks promising and we await expectantly the next budget in September.
Dr Suruj Rambachan, as Local Government Minister, has been thrown into a hot seat with local government elections in one year. It is our belief that he has the right attitude and drive to get the job done. Devant Maharaj was also excellently placed as Minister of Food Production to continue in the footsteps of Vasant Bharath.
The creation of the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration is unique to our jurisdiction but has been in existence in places like Mauritius with a similar demography as ours. Minister Clifton De Coteau can quell, for the first time, issues of race and religion if used correctly.
The Cabinet shake-up was seen as necessary by not only the Prime Minister but supporters of the party. In putting together any team of people, there is always going to be a “change of the field.” In the same way, as situations change within our economic, social and political system, the Prime Minister will have to make changes to create the right mix of individuals to carry out the mandate.
The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha congratulates all newly appointed ministers and in particular Prime Minister Persad-Bisses- sar for putting together her team to take the country to higher places. We will always be supportive of good government with an agenda that includes all the people of T&T.
• Satnarayan Maharaj is the secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
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