New Cabinet sworn in

by Stacey Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
April 13, 2001

MEMBERS of the new Cabinet and Prime Minister Sam Hinds were sworn in yesterday by President Bharrat Jagdeo in a packed Credentials Room of the Office of the President.

There was an aura of happiness in the room despite the tension in the city, as the ministers received congratulatory messages from relatives and well-wishers, while members of the media jostled among the crowd for comments particularly from the new faces in Cabinet.

New Minister of Public Service Management, Dr Jennifer Westford vowed to do her best for Public Servants, promising many revolutionary changes.

"I know and I am expecting that I am going to do service to this ministry and I would want to ensure, as a Public Servant, that there are going to be lots and lots of revolutionary changes within this ministry", she said.

Dr Leslie Ramsammy, the new Minister of Health was delighted at his appointment.

"I think it is a great honour...but I am not deluded in any way. It is a daunting task. I am flattered by the confidence the President has shown in me, and I could promise everyone that I will not let them down", he told reporters.

He said the Ministry of Health has established a foundation and is "now set to accelerate progress, so in that sense I am now fortunate".

Ramsammy acknowledged there are several problems he will have to deal with immediately, but said he is encouraged by the fact that the ministry has set in motion mechanisms that will transform the sector.

"...and it will be my privilege and honour to take us in that direction", he asserted.

New Amerindian Affairs Minister, Ms Carolyn Rodrigues expressed delight at being chosen for the post.

"It's a good feeling now that you can do something more for the people. I need to do a needs assessment of the Amerindian community in the country so that we would have an exact plan..."

"We know what their needs are, and we can move from there rather than doing a little bit here and a little bit there, without any clear plan", she indicated.

Newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Mr Navin Chandarpal, while acknowledging the portfolio is challenging has made a commitment to do his best.

He said he is prepared to tackle the ailing rice industry which requires a number of different aspects.

Ms Bibi Shadick, who has been tasked with the responsibility of Minister within the Ministry of Human Services, is confident that she will do a good job because of her previous experience dealing with people.

"I know it is a new job, I know it will be totally different, but I do know I will be dealing with people, something which I think I am good at, having been a teacher for 34 years and then a lawyer for three years.

"I hope those experiences will help me and the willingness to work hard and to do the best I can", she added.

Dr Dale Bisnauth who has now been given the portfolio of Minister of Human Services and Social Security, said he will have to first familiarise himself with what occurred previously and then be able to implement a plan for the way forward.

"I don't know much about labour relations but at the Ministry of Education and the teachers union, so really I got to do some intensive work", he confessed.

Dr Henry Jeffrey, Minister of Education, said what needs to be done in this ministry is to build some sort of national consensus around education.

"My first task, I think will be to try to put in place a national review and advisory committee for education."

Noting that primary and secondary education are of major importance to the life of the nation and the life of the individual, he said the Ministry of Education will have to fully utilise the resources available to move the sector forward.

"Of utmost importance in the field of education is the retention of teachers. We all know that the salaries for teachers and other public servants are not at a level that will make them want to stay in the system - there are other alternatives".

"We have done a lot over the years, but I think we have got to sit down here and try to see if there are any additional things that we can do to try to retain our teaching staff", Jeffrey stated.

Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Reepu Daman Persaud, said he will be able to concentrate more on his Parliamentary portfolio, a significant portfolio which is becoming more vibrant.

He indicated that this is one of the reasons he decided to give up his Minister of Agriculture portfolio, to devote more of his time to parliamentary affairs.

Persaud contended that he will now be able to interact more freely with all the parties in parliament to advance the deliberating process with the constitutional changes due in Parliament.

"It's an important forum in a country like ours, where total attention is given to parliament by having undivided attention applying to it".

"It was not easy to carry the two jobs but I managed", he pointed out.

Former Minister within the Ministry of Finance, and now the Minister of Finance, Mr Saisnarine Kowlessar said he is at an advantage to perform more efficiently, having been in the ministry for the past 16 months. He assured that the Ministry of Finance will become more efficient in the next five years, to deal with the disbursement of payments to the public.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Clement Rohee, is now Minister of Foreign Trade, a new section established.

He will be responsible for World Trade Organisation issues, Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations and Joint Commission.

Those ministers who have retained their positions are Mr Shaik Baksh, Minister of Water and Housing; Ms Gail Teixeira, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport; Mr Satyadeow Sawh, Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock; Mr Ronald Gajraj, Minister of Home Affairs; Mr Harripersaud Nokta, Minister of Local Government; Mr Anthony Xavier, Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Ministry of Public Works; and Mr Clinton Collymore, Minister within the Ministry of Local Government.

President Jagdeo in brief remarks said he was very pleased that the Elections Commission had cleared the way for the swearing-in of the ministers of the Cabinet.

He assured that his Cabinet will be working in the interest of the people of this country for the next five years.

The President told the ministers it is important they remain humble and focus on the execution of their duties at all times, to make full use of the resources available at their respective ministries, bearing in mind that they are servants of the people.

"We are elected and we are put here to do a job and that is to serve our people to create a better life", he stressed.

President Jagdeo said he expects a high level of performance from the ministers.

The Head of State stated that he is continuing discussions with the four technocrat ministers that are to be appointed to fill the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Tourism and Industry, Economic Planning and Development and the Attorney's General Office.