Dissatisfied with the manner in which former minister of education Dr Rupert Roopnaraine was reassigned to the Ministry of Presidency, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) on Tuesday accused the government of acting prematurely, while calling for President David Granger to publicly acknowledge the work done by the former minister.
“When you look at what was done in the ministry one can hardly call it underperformance, so we feel that the President should acknowledge Dr Roopnaraine performed creditably and… that the recent results bear [this] out…Perhaps some public acknowledgement by the President on an error in judgment will go a long way in repairing what borders on the questioning of Dr Roopnaraine’s competence,” WPA executive member David Hinds said yesterday.
Pointing to the sharp rise in the mathematics performance at this year’s sitting of the National Grade Six Assessment, Hinds said, “These improved results seem to suggest that the President may have acted prematurely in removing him from that ministry. We felt that Dr Roopnaraine was not given a full chance to carry out his vision that he outlined for the ministry.
“When we look at what Roopnaraine has done in the ministry in the last two years, we are convinced… When we look at what he put in place; when we look at what he was able to achieve in such a short time—and the recent results tend to bear this out—we are of the view that an injustice was done to Dr Roopnaraine in removing him, ostensibly for poor performance,” Hinds argued.
On June 14, Minister of State Joseph Harmon had announced that the long-time politician and co-leader of the WPA will no longer hold the post of Minister of Education but instead, will be reassigned to the Ministry of the Presidency.
“The President… briefed cabinet that he had a discussion with Dr Roopnaraine and after that discussion it was agreed that Dr. Roopnarine would be reassigned from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Presidency with specific responsibility for the public service,” Harmon had said.
Junior Minister Nicolette Henry has since taken over responsibility for the ministry. The promotion of Henry however has raised eyebrows as her performance to date has been seen as lacklustre and error-strewn.
Sources had also said that Roopnaraine had not been well enough to perform the onerous functions associated with his portfolio. However, Hinds argued that the removal of Roopnaraine was not health related. “It is now open knowledge that the minister was removed for lack of performance. Many of us speculated that he might have been removed for ill health. Now it is out in the open that he was removed for lack of performance… No one said he was removed from the ministry for ill health. Constant reference being made to the performance of the ministry. One can reasonably draw that conclusion,” Hinds said while stating that the party does not want Roopnaraine to be reinstated.
The State Minister had also announced that a department is to be created within the ministry to oversee innovation and reform in the education sector. This new department is to be supervised by President Granger.
However, the WPA, for which Roopnaraine is the sole representative at Cabinet and the National Assembly, expressed concern that no preparations were made for this transition. “To the best of our knowledge there is no actual ministry of the public service. There is no staff. We understand that there is no building and no preparation was made for Dr Roopnaraine…”
Meanwhile, ahead of a crucial meeting on July 22 with A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) executive, the WPA maintained that there is sufficient evidence that the party has been sidelined in light of the fact that there has been no consultations since the coalition came into power two years ago. “If the APNU leadership council hasn’t met for nearly two years, how would the WPA effectively play this role in the government and the coalition? You don’t have to be a political scientist to work that out,” Hinds said.
“There is disagreement between the government and WPA as to what constitutes consultation. We will spend some time on the 22nd trying to come to some consensus as to what constitutes consultation.”
The executive member added, “We want to ensure that we do not make the same mistake we made the first time when Roopnaraine was appointed. We weren’t clear…as to what the ministry is expected to do…We compromised in the last two years in the interest of bringing about some consensus on the way forward. We, in a sense, muted our voice. We are now signalling to the country that we are no longer pursuing that course of action and we are going to be very outspoken.”