The Cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has effected a major shake-up of his Cabinet of Ministers in which he demoted the two well-to-do Candidates that ran with his party in the 2013 general elections.

Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister, Alexandra Otway-Noel has been relegated to a job as Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister while Nickolas Steele has lost the prestigious position of Minister of Foreign Affairs to become the new man in charge of the problematic Ministry of Health.

The reshuffle was the first to be done by PM Mitchell since returning to power in the February 2013 general elections with a crushing 15-0 victory over the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Otway-Noel, the elected Member of Parliament for South St. George and who lives in the upscale Lance Aux Epines area in the south of the island will no longer be in charge of a full ministry.

According to PM Mitchell, the female government minister will now have special responsibility for Implementation and will also be tapped “to carry out special assignments for my office”.

Steele has replaced Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen who has been under fire as Minister of Health over the handling of the portfolio in recent months.

Two other significant changes would be in the Senate with the replacements of veterans Dr. Lawrence Joseph and Kenny Lalsingh with former Congress members, Peter David and Chester Humphrey.

NNP insiders have told THE NEW TODAY that David is being considered as a possible candidate for the St. George North-east seat in the next general elections against Congress leader, Nazim Burke.

PM Mitchell is alleged to have told David over a year ago that a vacancy exist in the St. George North-east constituency won in the last elections by Tobias Clement and he should look at it.

Clement is said to have fallen out of grace after he addressed Parliament shortly after the NNP victory at the polls and pointed an accusing finger at some persons who were sitting in the highest decision making body in the country and owing thousands of dollars to government in outstanding taxes.

Clement was obviously making reference to Senator Lalsingh (Minister of State with responsibility for Implementation) whose wholesale and retail business was owing close to quarter million E.C dollars in taxes to the State.

As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces the portion of PM Mitchell’s national address last Thursday night in which he announced the changes to the NNP line-up in the Cabinet and Parliament:

As I said during the swearing in of ministers in February 2013, the ministerial appointments are not meant to be permanent – and that there may be need to adjust the configurations from time to time.

Those adjustments will be made for a number of reasons – including giving members of our multi-talented team different experiences; to be sensitive to the twin demands of being an MP and a member of Cabinet; and to seek to use skill sets and experiences  in a way that will be most beneficial and fitting for the new challenges that we will confront at each stage.

As we get ready for a new budgetary period and a new year; and as we move into our third year – we believe that this presents us with a unique opportunity to enact some change in the arrangement for the reasons just stated.

And so we are moving with immediate effect to make changes to both the ministerial portfolios, as well as the configuration in the Senate.

We have decided to give some of our new constituency representatives who have been Cabinet members more opportunities to be able to consolidate their work as MPs, understanding that we are well into our five year cycle.

When we came into the office, we leaned heavily on our freshmen MPs – with their boundless enthusiasm and their youthful energies – to do a lot of the heavy lifting. In all of their areas they have done a remarkable job up to this point.

The successes of the likes of Alvin Dabreo, Oliver Joseph, Nikolas Steele, Delma Thomas, Alexandra-Otway Noel and Emmalin Pierre – all in their first tenure as MPs – have taught all of us – especially the more experienced among us –what is possible.
I am confident that we have begun to build a new cadre of politicians from which the next generation of leaders can emerge.

We were very conscious from the very beginning of the role these young politicians have to play in party and governance. And the adjustments we are going to make will offer different spheres of responsibilities to help broaden their horizons for future leadership of this country.

And we the older, more seasoned politicians must be ready and willing to provide advice and support.

In the first year and nine months, we have put a heavier burden on some of the Ministers because of the very nature of their portfolios.

They have hardly had time to build their profiles as constituency representatives, while in service to the nation in all parts of the world.

Our Foreign Minister, Hon Steele has led the foreign affairs team from the very beginning.

We have expanded our diplomatic connections in Latin America, the Gulf and the Far East, while keeping our traditionally strong ties with North America and Europe.

But this has come at a cost to our Minister, who, from the time he assumed office, has been leading the charge in our new efforts to positively engage the world.

Minister Steele however, in his own words, has stated that his most important job next to being a husband and father, is as the MP for the Town of St George.

Minister Steele came into government with a successful history as a business manager, and we also want to take more advantage of that going forward – particularly in this current environment.

In light of these considerations, I will be offering Minister Steele the new portfolio of Minister of Health.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will therefore now be headed by Honourable Dr Clarice Modeste, one of the most experienced and seasoned MPs among us.

Dr Modeste is into her fourth term as an MP – who through her plethora of experiences, has developed connections and a support structure in her constituency of St Mark’s that will allow her to undertake the dual role of Foreign Minister.

Our foreign partners can rest assured that while the personalities may change, our foreign policy will remain the same – open and innovative.

Minister Steele will have his hands full as the Minister of Health – and so the other part of his previous portfolio – International Business will now be undertaken by Minister Oliver Joseph.

Minister Joseph is already Minister of Economic Development, and we believe that adding International Business to it is a more natural synergy.

In the changes that will take effect, Sister Alexandra Otway-Noel will be a full Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, with special responsibility for Implementation.

Minister Otway-Noel will also be tapped to carry out special assignments for my office, while at the same time being able to learn firsthand from my experience.

We have also given consideration of her wanting to be more available to directly oversee some of the extended work we will do in South St George in the coming period.

Sister Alexandra Otway-Noel has capably and energetically shaped the Tourism and Civil Aviation industries in the last two years; and Pure Grenada has proven to be a worthwhile brand that is now attracting more visitors.

Tourism is on the rise, with all the industry’s numbers heading in the right direction. We have a new governing authority and a new marketing approach. The foundation has been truly laid for even more growth and development in the future.

And now that she has done the heavy lifting, it makes it relatively easier for someone else to take up the mantle.

We are grateful to Sister Otway-Noel for a job well done, as we welcome Yolande Bain-Horsford to the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation.

Sister Yolande has been patient and continued to be a valuable team player even when she was left out of the Cabinet last year.

Her introduction now is in keeping with the promise to give members of the team different opportunities from time to time.

We have confidence in Sister Yolande’s ability to continue to guide the upper trajectory of the tourism industry.

Continuity and development are also assured because of the team Minister Otway-Noel has put together in the Authority – which will continue to manage the industry in a direct way on a day-to-day basis.

Under the adjustments in portfolios – the National Lottery Authority will now come under the Ministry of Culture headed by Senator Brenda Hood.

Minister Emmalin, our Minister of Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs, had herself requested that she be relieved of responsibility for the national lottery. We were more than pleased to accommodate her request.

The National Lottery, as it so ably has done, will continue to play its part in the support of sports and culture.

We are also pleased to announce that we are making changes in the configuration of the Senate.

The decision on the changes was made before the untimely passing of
brother Emmons. No replacement will be named for Brother Emmons at this time. Out of respect, we believe that it is only fitting to continue to mourn him, and give him a fitting farewell before we address the matter.

Among the changes we will be making in the Senate is the replacement
of the retiring President Dr the Hon. Lawrence Joseph. A long serving member of parliament, we will be fortunate however not to lose his experience and wisdom altogether.

Dr Joseph has agreed to be an advisor to the parliament and the members of our cabinet. Dr Joseph will continue to serve as Deputy to the Governor General. We look forward to his continued wise counsel.

Also leaving the Senate will be our party Vice Chairman Brother Kenny
Lalsingh, who since 1984 has served as MP, Minister and Senator on various occasions.

Brother Lalsingh will continue to serve as the Party Vice Chairman, and has offered to continue to be of service to the government and people of Grenada through special assignments, even while he takes the time to pursue other interests.

As a consequence, Hon Simon Stiell will be elevated to Leader of Government Business in the Senate, spearheading the government’s work in this new legislative period.

Senator Stiell has a solid team to work with – new and vibrant senators such as Sheldon Scott and Winston Garraway – as well as more experienced veterans.

That team will be joined by Brother Peter David, who we are happy and proud to welcome into the fold of the Senate. Peter David is an experienced politician, having served two terms as MP and as a very successful foreign minister.

In recent months, he has also been a very useful new member of our party, and he has shown the ability to help government articulate its objectives and its policies going forward.

The other new member of the Senate will be Brother Chester Humphrey – our most experienced senator since independence.

Mr. Humphrey served for over 20 years as the labor representative in the Senate, and has acted as President on previous occasions. He knows the workings of the body as good as anyone.

The appointment of Brother Humphrey is consistent to a long held policy of this government that one does not have to be a member of our party to be given such a position. We had set that precedent a few years ago when we had nominated Leslie-Ann Seon to that post.

More importantly, the addition of both Mr David and Mr Humphrey in the Senate, shows our commitment not only to talk the talk, but walk the walk of inclusion.

Our shared history as political combatants are well known. Now we share the reality that there are redemptive qualities in Grenadian politics, if we are to ever fulfill our mandate of people first politics.

It was instructive that the homily at my church service on Sunday was about unity and people working together. We are indeed committed to that unity more than ever.

Tonight is not meant to be a moment in time that is frozen in the politics of this country. Instead, it is a developing journey that is steeped in what is in the best interest of the Grenadian populace.

We have dropped the baggage of the past; and our forward movement is fuelled by hope and an understanding that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.

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