New record set for shortest ministerial appointment in Trinidad and Tobago

Darryl Smith.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Just 24 hours after being appointed as minister in the ministry of housing and urban development in Monday’s Cabinet reshuffle, Darryl Smith’s appointment was revoked on Tuesday, thus beating the previous record of shortest ministerial appointments in Trinidad and Tobago of 48 hours held by Marlene McDonald.

According to a press statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley advised President Paula-Mae Weekes to revoke Smith’s appointment following a meeting between the prime minister, the minister of planning and development, Camille Robinson-Regis, and Smith, during which new information came to the attention of the Prime Minister.

The meeting also resulted in the appointment of a committee to review the circumstances surrounding the dismissal and payment of compensation to Carrie-Ann Moreau in Smith’s previous portfolio, the ministry of sport and youth affairs.

The “new information” referred to was said by former senator Robin Montano to be that the victim of alleged sexual misconduct by Smith in his previous post as the minister of sports is now an employee of UDECOTT, a government agency that falls under the ministry of housing, and the effect of Smith’s reassignment to the housing portfolio would be to put the predator to work over the victim again.

However, according to other sources, Smith’s alleged victim is now working at the Police Credit Union.

In addition, Rowley’s latest move was also said to have been made necessary by President Weekes not accepting Smith’s reassignment.

The previous record holder, McDonald, was appointed as minister of public utilities on June 30, 2017, a position she held for just two days until she was fired from Cabinet for a second time after she showed up to her swearing in ceremony with a known hoodlum and gang leader, breaching all presidential security protocols.

After much anticipation, Rowley finally reshuffled his cabinet on Monday in a much delayed response to endless evidence, allegations, claims of corruption, lies, crimes, misconduct in public office by government officials, inappropriate behaviour towards women.

Like most major cabinet reshuffles, this one was preceded by some speculation but in the event it was a damp squib. But reshuffles can also be a very public reminder of the prime minister’s powers and an ability to wield the knife with personal authority.

In the event, the reshuffle prompted commentary and debate from across the political spectrum.

Former prime minister and leader of the opposition Kamla Persad-Bissesser said, prior to Smith’s firing, the latest Cabinet reshuffle by Rowley was outrageous and insulting to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

“Prime Minister Rowley should pick up his pack of jokers and go. In the case of Darryl Smith, in particular, the PM has ignored the calls of all right- minded citizens of Trinidad and Tobago Including Womantra, the opposition, independent commentators and even the editorial of today’s Express newspaper. In effect, the PM has promoted Darryl Smith to minister of housing and urban development given all the allegations of sexual misconduct against him towards female employees at ministry of sport, one can only wonder how the female employees of the ministry, HDC and UDECOTT must feel given the allegations against their new boss.

“Mr Rowley has doubled down on rewarding bad behaviour by cycling and re-cycling scandal-plagued politicians. If the prime minister has so much confidence in his leadership and his team, he should test that confidence at the polls. It is now clear that the PM himself is unfit to lead. This Rowley-led government is a disgrace. Dr Rowley should do the correct thing and call the elections now,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Former UNC senator Robin Montano described the news as incredible.

“First of all, Maxie Cuffie remains a minister? Why? Simple question. When is he coming back? Why can’t we be told? And if he is not coming back, why can’t we be told? And if he is not coming back now (and now means now) then why is he being kept in Cabinet? Ugly and unnecessary suspicions arise that are probably better left unexpressed for the time being.

“Then Darryl Smith is moved. Why? Either he is guilty of something or he is not. If he is guilty then why wasn’t he fired? If he is not guilty then why was he moved?

“Why was Shamfa Cudjoe moved from Tourism to Sport? And the list goes on. There are too many “whys” and too few straight answers for any right thinking person to be happy. Unfortunately explanations are scarcer than hen’s teeth!” he said.

Former United National Congress (UNC) senator Stanley James Ryan took a more philosophical approach.

“The honourable prime minister in his wisdom knows best. Trinidad and Tobago must repose confidence in his leadership under his stewardship. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord,” he said.

Political leader of the Progressive Empowerment Party (PEP), Phillip Edward Alexander, said that the prime minister was caught by his own rhetoric, shuffling jokers in a lightweight pack.

“Moving the deck chairs around could not save the Titanic, and relocating failed ministers to failing ministries will have the same effect. This is a government suffering from a lack of vision for the country and a weak human resource pool. We still have not been provided a fit for work certificate for the brain damaged Maxie Cuffie, yet even he has found a space in this weekend at Bernie’s Cabinet romp.

“Jokes aside, any reshuffle that did not fire the incompetent and bungling Sinanan, Dillion, Garcia and Deyalsingh and removed the inept and clueless Smith, Mitchell and Cudjoe is not a real reshuffle of any value to anyone. More theatre and distraction from a government built on ole talk and noise,” Alexander said.

Former minister of sport, Brent Sancho, admitted to being totally bewildered by Smith’s reassignment.

“If you are making a reshuffle based on sexual harassment claims, then why was it a reshuffle and not a firing? Football had suffered under this government and particularly this man. Despite the heinous sexual harassment stories he is still part of the Cabinet. A female MP was fired because of misconduct but a male MP has been given another portfolio despite his indiscretion. What message is being sent to our women of this country?” Sancho asked.

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This article was written by Eve George, Caribbean News Now senior correspondent.