President Paula-Mae Weekes put on the cap of aunty tantie yesterday as she took the opportunity to address the newly sworn-in Cabinet of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, telling them to “put your hand to the plough and get down to business.” Her Excellency made it clear in her address that Trinidad and Tobago must come first at all times.
Dr Rowley himself set a similar tone for his Cabinet, telling them he was counting the term not in years but in months – 60. “We count the months because some people may fall asleep,” he said, warning ministers their performance will be reviewed “on an ongoing basis.”
Yesterday’s ceremony, the first in years to be held at President’s House, was devoid of the usual pomp and ceremony due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
As one of only four T&T Prime Ministers to earn consecutive terms in office, Dr Rowley now faces the most challenging time ever in this country’s history due to the pandemic.
Indeed, his administration’s ability to quickly adjust to their new assignments may be the facet needed most moving forward in the new normal.
One hopes that given the many challenges facing this country, Dr Rowley would have sought advice and thought long and hard before selecting the best resources for his Cabinet. He’s opted to stay with Colm Imbert as Minister of Finance, saying experience won out in the circumstance the country now finds itself. “This is a period where financing and budgeting is not for the faint-hearted,” he said of his selection of Minister Imbert for the job.
As Dr Rowley indicated, some changes were necessary to achieve the objectives set out in the party’s election manifesto. Others were prompted by his announcement this may be his last term in office and as such, the People’s National Movement must begin to groom a younger generation of leaders. Much of what the Prime Minister does during this term, therefore, will entail passing on knowledge to that younger generation. Here, it is hoped teaching them that seeking their constituents’ interests and not that of their party, and doing so conscientiously and with integrity, is their main function.
With 22 seats in the 41-seat Parliament, there will be times when Dr Rowley will need Opposition support to get legislation passed. This will not all be smooth sailing. But one hopes all 41 Parliamentarians will put their heads together for the national good.
Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s recent pledge to work with the new Government in the country’s interest is a refreshing element of her impending dispensation.
Both leaders will also need to come together to discuss T&T’s future and how they can unite a country which was divided on the basis of race in the last election, especially when the results were announced. If Dr Rowley and Mrs Persad-Bissessar are to leave any legacies before stepping down, it will be creating a better cadre of politicians and returning the country to the racial harmony it has boasted of for decades.
We congratulate Dr Rowley’s new Cabinet and the Opposition Leader’s team and wish them God’s speed. At this point, however, the Government’s first order of business must be to ensure COVID-19 does not overrun this country and force another shutdown to cripple the economy further. Time to get to the real business at hand.