(Trinidad Express) Congress of the People (COP) Leader Prakash Ramadhar has apparently yielded to the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar ended eight hours of public speculation about Ramadhar’s future in her Government with a brief statement following a special Cabinet meeting last night.
“Let me make it very clear. No minister has been fired. No minister will be fired. No minister has resigned. And no minister has indicated any desire to resign,” she said, adding, “I understand that there have been rumours that appointments would be revoked.”
The Prime Minister was equally emphatic that all ministers had affirmed their commitment to collective Cabinet responsibility at the meeting.
Ramadhar’s public statements over the past week about the posture his party and MPs would adopt on the Marlene Coudray issue, on the matter of the Caribbean Court of Justice and their stance on voting in the Parliament had given serious cause for concern about the status of the coalition. Days ago, the COP, the second strongest of the partners in the coalition, had suggested that it was not committing itself to collective responsibility.
But the Prime Minister’s utterances last night quelled fears about the stability of her Government.
“My Government is very strong…We have differences of opinion from time to time, but I feel the Government is very strong, the Cabinet is very strong and out of the hours we have been meeting I have not picked up one dissonant voice that seems to be saying, ‘I do not want to belong to this partnership or I want this partnership to break up.’ Indeed everyone has affirmed their commitment to the partnership and to collective Cabinet responsibility, which I think is one of the issues that may have arisen within recent times,” she said.
Asked whether the issue of the COP’s call for a referendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice (as opposed to Government’s position of a phased withdrawal) was discussed, the Prime Minister repeated her statement that all ministers affirmed their commitment to collective Cabinet responsibility, which is a constitutional position.
In fact, the Prime Minister was asked the same question (about the differences between the UNC and COP) in a number of different ways and she gave the same answer each time: “Each minister spoke, and each minister not only affirmed his/her commitment, but was very strongly supportive of what is the constitutional position of the collective Cabinet responsibility… Mr Ramadhar, I repeat, indeed every member of my Government has reaffirmed their commitment to collective Cabinet responsibility.”
She added that she had no reason to doubt her ministers and she was very impressed with the level of maturity and the wisdom in the suggestions made on governance issues, on delivery and communication issues.
In answer to a question, she stated further: “During this meeting, there was never any recourse to waving the whip or dangling the carrot. That never happened. It was each person speaking from their hearts and strongly committing to the partnership, strongly committing to the Cabinet and the responsibilities of the Cabinet. There was no carrot and stick and at no point was that ever mentioned or brought forward by anyone.”
However, she conceded that there were challenges to managing a coalition government: “It is always easier when you have one child as compared to having five. It (governing in a coalition) would always have to be by consensus.”
This was why, she emphasised, she was not a “no-dog-bark” type of Prime Minister, but believed in a more consensus-building style of governance, rather than one that was dictatorial. “It will have challenges from time to time, as would any organisation…But the Government remains intact, strong and we are very determined to make our third year in office a better one than the past one,” the Prime Minister said.
She said the meeting concentrated on delivery and more delivery, and on strategies for effecting a greater implementation of decisions with respect to delivering to citizens and communities.
She said the meeting also discussed matters relating to the legislative agenda, especially in the fight against crime. She noted that the Government had gone as far as completing legislation relating to the protection of children.
The Prime Minister was also due to meet with non-Cabinet MPs who were also in the building, waiting to attend the meeting at a later point. She said the purpose of the meeting was for the People’s Partnership Government to plan for its second anniversary and, more importantly, to assess where it was and discuss the way forward for a third year in office.
The mid-term year is seen by some to be a make-or-break year, she noted.