The Cabinet of President Donald Ramotar was this afternoon sworn in at State House and there were few new faces but a lot of portfolio exchanges.
The first to take the oath was Prime Minister Sam Hinds.
Former Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President NK Gopaul is the new Minister of Labour, replacing Manzoor Nadir.
Robert Persaud, formerly Minister of Agriculture is now the Minister for Natural Resources and the Environment. This is an entirely new portfolio and takes some responsibilities from the Prime Minister’s portfolio and the Office of the President.
Anil Nandlall is the new Attorney General replacing Charles Ramson SC. Nandlall is not a Senior Counsel and the convention has always been that the leader of the Bar would be someone who has taken silk. This debate had arisen before when Nandlall’s name was considered for the 2006 appointment.
Bishop Juan Edghill has been named as the Minister in the Ministry of Finance. This appointment is likely to raise eyebrows. Ashni Singh remains the Minister of Finance.
The new Minister of Health is Dr Bheri Ramsaran. He was previously the Minister in the Ministry. Former Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy is the new Minister of Agriculture. Observers would likely query the thinking behind this. Persaud had hyped up the Agriculture Sector with a Grow More Food campaign which critics have said did not yield much. The sugar industry and its flagship Skeldon factory remain in a dire state and it is unclear what skills the long-serving Minister of Health would bring to this area. Former Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) Chairman and PPP/C stalwart, Ali Baksh is the Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Priya Manickchand is the new Minister of Education. Her previous portfolio of Human Services and Social Security will now be held by Jennifer Webster who was formerly at the Ministry of Finance.
Carolyn Rodrigues remains the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Robeson Benn also retains his portfolio as Minister of Works.
Pauline Sukhai remains the Minister of Amerindian Affairs as does Jennifer Westford at the Minister of the Public Service.
Former Permanent Secretary and elections official Ganga Persaud is the new Minister of Local Government and Regional Development while his predecessor Norman Whittaker will be the Minister in the Ministry.
Frank Anthony remains at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport and Irfaan Ali at the Ministry of Housing and Water.
There was no announcement of an appointment at the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce. Its previous Minister, Manniram Prashad was not returned to the Cabinet neither were Nadir, Ramson and Shaik Baksh. Baksh had previously served as Minister of Housing and Education under the Jagdeo administration. Nadir had previously brought one seat to the PPP/C in Parliament but this year his former party, TUF did not make it into the House.
As he had telegraphed earlier, President Ramotar did not go outside of the PPP/C for cabinet picks and he retains several persons with close ties to former President Jagdeo.
Persaud’s portfolio is a new one while Ali Baksh’s own had not been occupied in the previous government.