KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The equalizing effect of a one-seat majority in Parliament might have caused Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to back down or at least postpone a reshuffle of his Cabinet.
Searchlight newspaper, in a front-page story on Tuesday, said that Gonsalves was expected to announce a major Cabinet reshuffle during a press conference that day.
The reshuffle was expected to affect the ministries of Agriculture, Health, Tourism, Physical Planning, Housing, Lands and Surveys and Sports and Culture, in addition to some permanent secretaries, with the changes expected to have taken effect yesterday, the newspaper reported.
However, Gonsalves told reporters at the press conference “there is no announcement today”.
Gonsalves, however, did not confirm or deny the newspaper report.
“I wouldn’t say whether it is right, I would say whether it is wrong. Just wait and see if there will be an announcement sometime,” he told reporters.
Opposition parliamentarian and New Democratic Party Vice-President St. Clair Leacock commented on the development yesterday.
“School children say that (the one-seat majority) is why you didn’t have the reshuffle yesterday. Because one member made it plain if you only move him from his ministry he gone. So one from eight leave nought,” Leacock said, meaning that the Gonsalves government would fall if its area representatives quit the government.
The Unity Labour Party (ULP) was re-elected to a third term in office in December 2010, winning eight of the parliamentary seats while the NDP won the remaining seven.
“I have done that during the first [term] after a year. I have done it [after a] year and a half, I have done it at different points in time because you look at things and you access and as chairman of the Cabinet, I am always doing these assessments,” Gonsalves said Tuesday.
“The reality is that the government has a majority. It has functioned perfectly well past one year in which time the government should have fallen twice, according to the I believe predictions of the Leader of the Opposition,” he further siad.
Political activist and commentator Jomo Thomas, speaking after Gonsalves and the ULP was returned to office with a single seat majority, said that the ULP would be “governing on a razor’s edge”.
“Once it holds it ground and it can hold all its members, it may govern,” Thomas further said, noting that there have been instances here where legislators have crossed the floor.