Having barely completed its fourth year in office, the multi-party People’s Partnership administration in Trinidad &Tobago has had a record 12 ministers who have either been fired or pushed out of the cabinet for reasons ranging from corruption to public misconduct, to poor job performance.
Tuesday night, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar fired Glenn Ramadarsingh, her minister for People and Social Development, in the wake of a scandal involving rowdy-behavior by the minister, revolving around allegations from a Caribbean Airlines flight attendant that he had inappropriately touched her breast, then threatened to have her fired while being intoxicated, highly uncooperative and disruptive on a flight between Trinidad and and sister-isle Tobago earlier this month.
Ramadarsingh reportedly had apologized for his behavior on the domestic flight and begged for forgiveness from the crew member; but becoming aware of a wave of criticism over the minister’s behavior; and with calls for “his head” from opposition leaders and even Indian rights organizations, Persad-Bissessar said she felt compelled to act.
“There must be no compromise on integrity, no allowance for arrogance, no room for violation of mutual respect; there will be no sacrifice of our values on the altar of political expediency,” she said, . adding: “Regardless of whether the decisions I take hurt me politically or not, I have the strength and courage and independence of mind to measure every tough decision on the basis of what is right and just,” the prime minister said in a statement.
General elections are due by May next year and it is widely believed that the partnership could return to the opposition benches, given several high-profile scandals that also involve corruption but involving persons deemed as untouchables.
The latest firing has pushed local media organizations and politicians to continue ticking-off the number of ministers kicked out for non-performance, corruption or political felonies. Of the 12, eleven were cleanly fired while Minister Jack Warner quit before he was pushed.
Ramadarsingh is just the most recent poloitician to proverbially fall on his sword, in the coalition that came to power owing to major political and other lapses by previous Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his shock move to call fresh elections midway in a five-year term. The 2010 elections was the second time Manning had done so and was handily defeated.
The list of those cast by the wayside of the sometimes-shaky PP government includes former National Security Minister and FIFA world football executive Austin Jack Warner — who was forced to quit in the midst of a major domestic and international corruption scandal; Herbert Volney — who had served at the Justice Ministry but asked to walk for allegedly misleading the cabinet on key legislation freeing defendants whose trials were incomplete after 10 years; and Colin Partap — a junior at the Security Ministry who had publicly refused to take a breathalyzer test after being stopped by cops late one night in the city.
Planning and Gender Affairs Minister Mary King was among the first to be dismissed in the wake of a conflict-of-interest scandal linked to the award of a contract to family members.
“I can’t recall so many ministers being fired for various reasons anywhere in the Caribbean over such a short period,” said Guyanese political scientist and newspaper critic Fred Kissoon who, like dozens of others in his native Guyana has campaigned, albeit without success, for several cabinet ministers widely known to be super-rich since joining government to be similarly treated.
Kissoon, said success administrative in neighboring Guyana have kept on and even promoted some Cabinet and high-ranking officials who transgressed, adding that such behavior is not even tolerated in “cruel, authoritative or dictatorial regimes like North Korea, Egypt and Cuba. “Only in Guyana that happens,” he added.