ST. VINCENT:- Two new portfolios, National Reconciliation and Wellness, have been created under the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration, which was returned to office for a third consecutive term on Dec. 13 when it won eight seats to the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) seven.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said there were two ministries fewer in his new administration as he announced the Cabinet on Sunday, Dec. 19, in Layou, Central Leeward, where the ULP won its only seat on the western corridors of St. Vincent.
Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne presided over the swearing-in ceremony, where ten Cabinet members underwent the relevant formalities.
They join Gonsalves, Minister of Finance, National Security, Grenadines Affairs, and Legal Affairs; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Girlyn Miguel; and Attorney General Judith Jones Morgan, who took their oaths at Government House on Wednesday.
Clayton Burgin, who has won the East St. George seats on three consecutive occasions, is Minister of Housing, Informal Human Settlement, Physical Planning, and Lands and Surveys.
Montgomery Daniel, who also did the hat trick in North Windward, retains the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, in addition to Rural Transformation.
The Ministry of Tourism has a new head in Saboto Caesar, who retained the South Central Windward seat for the ULP in his first outing at the polls. Caesar also has ministerial responsibilities for Industry, which was previously pinned to the Ministry of Telecommunications.
The Ministry of Health and the Environment has been expanded to include Wellness and is now under the leadership of Cecil ‘Ces’ McKie, who won the West St. George seat at his first outing at the polls.
Former educator and diplomat, Seventh-Day Adventist leader Maxwell Charles, the political newcomer who retained the Central Leeward seat held by former deputy prime minister, Sir Louis Straker, is Minister of National Reconciliation, Public Service, Labour, Information, and Ecclesiastical Affairs.
Frederick Stevenson, Member of Parliament for South Windward, is Minister of National Mobilisation, Social Development, Family, Gender Affairs, Persons with Disabilities, Youth, Sports, and Culture.
Former Minister of Health and the Environment, Dr Douglas Slater, is among members of the last Cabinet who have been retained to substantive positions in the new government.
Slater, who did not contest the South Leeward seat after two terms as its representative, had said last year that he wanted to quit politics.
He is now the nation’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, and Consumer Affairs.
Gonsalves said Slater was one of the best ministers since the ULP came to office in 2001 and that he did not want a parliamentary representative as a foreign minister, since that official has to travel a lot.
ULP General Secretary Julian Francis has once again been appointed a senator, with ministerial responsibilities for Transportation and Works, in addition to Urban Development and Local government.
The other senators are David Browne, who was defeated in South Leeward, and Elvis Charles, who failed to win Central Kingstown and is now Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Gonsalves said he will submit Browne’s name for consideration as Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and Hendrick Alexander, the last speaker, to continue in that position.
Former Minister of Telecommunication Jerrold Thompson, who lost the North Leeward seat to the NDP’s Roland Matthews, will be Director of Special Project in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Thompson will assist Gonsalves with telecommunications and energy policy, as well as projects such as the international airport at Argyle, the cross country road, and the construction of a cruise ship pier in North Leeward.
Edwin Snagg and Herman Belmar, who once again failed to wrestle the Southern and Northern Grenadines seats from the NDP, have also been retained as Director and Deputy Director of Grenadines affairs, respectively.
Michelle Fife, a first time candidate who failed to retain the West Kingstown seat for the ULP, has been appointed on a contractual basis as legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Luke Browne, who failed to defeat NDP head and Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace in East Kingstown, will return to Oxford to complete his Master’s degree and will be “reintegrated” into the government after that, Gonsalves said.
Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne told the Cabinet to heed the exhortation of Pastor Amos Baptiste that with clean hands and a pure heart they would have all that can be expected of them
He further said that power comes with responsibility and that the Cabinet should not forget that they are servants of all Vincentians and not only their respective constituents.
Sir Frederick told Vincentians that the elections are over and the nation is well into the Christmas season, a time of love and caring for all people.
He said told citizens to reach out to each other, giving a hug or a kiss when a tangible token is not possible.
Gonsalves said that with two ministries less there will be some rearrangement of permanent secretaries adding that he will be requiring constituency reports of the Parliamentary Representative.
The Prime Minister also urged ULP supporters to own the government, saying, “I want you to possess it, it belongs to you and your neighbour.”
“He said he will be building community structure to ensure that they own the government, even as he encouraged opposition supporters to come forward and participate supportively in owning the government.
(See photos of Cabinet members in a subsequent post)