New Cabinet members defend credentials

- no conflict between serving god and gov’t, says Edghill

With his appointment as the Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Bishop Juan Edghill yesterday said that he brings a level of fairness, justice and a willingness to work with all the people of Guyana.

The former head of the Ethnic Relations Commission and the Guyana Post Office Corporation emphasised that he will be taking leadership, accountability and transparency to the Finance Ministry, which he believes that the Guyanese public deserve.

Edghill, minutes after being sworn in by President Donald Ramotar, told reporters that his service to the people of Guyana over the last eight years is well known as it ensured “equal opportunities and equal access” and that his former role as chairman of the ERC “speaks for itself.”

He said that having been a person who has been in public life since 1995, “I believe that I carry with me the leadership skills, the talents to ensure that people are properly served….”
Asked about his apparent switch from the leadership of the church to the world of politics, Edghill, a member of the Civic arm of the ruling PPP/C, said that “my sacred office as a Bishop is my number one responsibility. There is absolutely no conflict between me serving as a priest in the house of God and as a minister in the government.”
Meanwhile, an elated Anil Nandlall, who has replaced Charles Ramson SC, as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, played down the fact that he is the first holder of the post who is not a Senior Counsel.

The convention has always been that the leader of the Bar would be someone who has taken silk. The debate over a non Senior Counsel being appointed had arisen before when Nandlall was previously considered for the appointment but lost out to Ramson.

“I feel humble that I hold such an important position,” Nandlall said, while noting that elsewhere non Senior Counsel have been appointed, including in Trinidad and Tobago, where he said his counterpart Anand Ramlogan is an example.

Addressing questions on his future plans for his new post, he told reporters that his first step besides getting acquainted with the office and what needs to be done is “to get a status update on the justice improvement programme, see what stage it is at and what is there to be done.” He said that his ministry will also be engaged a countless consultations with the Guyana Bar Association, the business community and all other stakeholders, including the opposition, to ensure that all decisions are just. “We need the cooperation of all involved to take the legal system forward,” he stressed.

Nandlall noted that there are a lot of problems weighing down the legal system that have to be urgently addressed and rectified. He said that all his plans will be centred on improving the quality of justice.

New Minister of Labour Dr Nanda Gopaul said that his first course of action will be to review the laws, with a view of modernising them to be in line with other parts of the world. “We are hoping that we will be able to equal these laws to ensure that workers rights are protected,” he said.

Gopaul, who was actively involved in the sugar sector, noted that workers rights are protected under the current laws but there needs to be assurances that all the areas of concern are addressed and that people are happy at their places of work regardless of the sector.

He noted that security and “a sense of belonging” for all workers will also be focused on. He said that once briefed on existing matters, they will be addressed. “All matters which are outstanding we would like to tackle, all grievances resolved and we are going to work feverously to ensure that grievances are resolved,” he added.

Former Region Two Chairman Ali Baksh said that being named Junior Minister of Agriculture, a post that was not occupied in the previous government, is important for him and it might be good for the country. “I have been working in this field for a number of years. I have grown up in an agriculture region and I come from an agriculture background. I think I have gained a lot of experience and those experiences I would like to put into the ministry. What we need to do is work more in drainage and irrigation so that the farmers can benefit, to ensure that access roads are better and we also have to [look at expansion of lands],” he said.

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