Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley, political leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM) was sworn in as Trinidad and Tobago’s seventh prime minister on Wednesday, Sept. 9 during a ceremony at Queen’s Hall, Port of Spain.
President Anthony Carmona also swore in the country’s new Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and National Security Minister retired Major General Edmund Dillon. The rest of the Cabinet will be sworn in on Friday.
Dr. Rowley, 70, who has been in politics for more than 25 years, led his party to victory in an election battle in the 2015 general election.
He is the second Tobago-born prime minister. The first was the late ANR Robinson and Dr. Rowley is the fourth PNM Prime Minister to be elected since the country gained Independence in 1962.
The PNM won 23 seats, while the People’s Partnership (PP) led by former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar took 18 seats in the 41-member House of Representatives.
In the 2010 General Election the PP won 29 seats, and the PNM 12 seats.
The fall of the PP was blamed on rampant corruption, and escalating crime which the PNM campaigned against.
In his victory speech to supporters at the party’s Balisier Headquarters in Port of Spain just after midnight on Monday, Dr. Rowley pledged to engage in a campaign to make citizens more patriotic.
He said the election victory marked the culmination of a very grueling campaign adding at times it was not easy, but he always held the belief that the PNM would emerge victorious.
Dr. Rowley said while he was leader of the PNM he was now assuming the responsibility of serving not only PNM members but all of Trinidad and Tobago.
The newly elected prime minister was quick to remind the nation of the serious challenges it would confront in the months and years ahead.
“There are difficult times ahead. There is rough water ahead but if we navigate them successfully, there is calm water ahead,” he told a cheering crowd.
He said the success was also dependent on people “at the individual level taking responsibility for ourselves and saying that we are our brother’s keeper.”
Former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in her concession speech to UNC supporters at her constituency office in Siparia, South Trinidad, said she had no regrets about her journey as T&T first female prime minister.
She said she would never stop serving the people of Trinidad and Tobago who placed their trust in her stewardship.
Dr. Rowley took over leadership of the PNM after party lost the 2010 General Election when Prime Minister Patrick Manning called a snap election after two years in office.
Manning a few days later tendered his resignation as political leader of the PNM. He remained a MP for his constituency San Fernando East until Parliament was prorogued three months ago to make way for the general election.
In the PNM internal elections last year Dr. Rowley, who is the MP for Diego Martin West (a few miles from the City of Port of Spain) since l991 was voted as political leader of the party. He was then appointed opposition leader.
He and his new executive began the rebuilding process for the party to emerge victorious in the 2015 general election.
PNM bounced back in the Local Government Elections in 2013, regaining several constituencies the party lost to the PP in 2010.
Dr. Rowley, a geologist by profession, first served in Parliament as an opposition senator from 1987 to 1990.
Subsequently he was appointed as minister of agriculture and also served as minister in several other ministries until Prime Minister Patrick Manning fired him in 2008.
Manning said he fired Dr. Rowley because of unacceptable “hooligan behavior” at a meeting of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of cabinet and not because of his corruption allegations.
Dr. Rowley, who had spoken out publicly about questionable dealings in the Manning administration was blamed for the demise of the PNM in 2010.