Sweeping changes to Trinidad & Tobago cabinet

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has made some sweeping changes in her cabinet — the second in two years since the People’s Partnership (PP) government came into office after the May 24, 2010 general election.

Works and Infrastructure Minister Jack Warner has been elevated to the post of national security minister, replacing Brigadier John Sandy and banker Lary Howai has been brought in to take charge of the Ministry of Finance.

Winston Dookeran, who held the portfolio of finance minister for the past two years, has been made foreign affairs minister, replacing Dr. Suruj Rambachan.

The prime minister also brought into her expanded cabinet — now numbering 34, San Fernando Mayor Marlene Coudray as minister of gender, youth and child development, which was formerly held by Senator Verna St Rose-Greaves, who was axed from the government.

Coudray, who defected from the Congress of the People (COP), one of the four coalition partners in the government and joined the United National Congress (UNC), won the post of deputy political leader in the March 24 UNC internal elections.

Other changes made were in the Ministry of Trade, Public Utilities, Transport, Food Production and Ministry of Multiculturalism.

Calypsonian Winston “Gypsy” Peters, who held the portfolio minister of multiculturalism, has been shifted to the Ministry of Community Development. Five new faces were added to the Cabinet.

Prime Minister Persad-Bissesar in making the announcement on Friday night stressed that her changes were not an indictment of the performance of anyone.

Her firing of retired Brigadier Sandy comes in the wake of growing concerns over the spiraling crime rate. So far police have recorded 200 murders for the year.

Persad-Bissessar has described Warner as a man of action and expressed confidence in the new national security minister saying he would be the best crime-buster.

However, Warner’s new appointment has come in for criticism from the opposition PNM and some members of the public, since questions still hang over his head over the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) cash-for-votes scandal in the run-up to the last FIFA presidential election.

Warner resigned his post as FIFA vice-president in June last year, and from all international football activities, in the aftermath of the FIFA bribery scandal.

He was recently cleared by the Trinidad and Tobago police of bribery allegations into the cash-for-votes allegations.

However, there is still an ongoing investigation into the Customs Department probe as to how US$1 million, which was offered to CFU delegates to vote for presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hamam, came into the country.

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