No women are among the 11-member Cabinet of Ministers sworn into office on Tuesday after the Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) election to an unprecedented fifth term in office in the Nov. 5 general elections.
The nation’s electorate rejected the five women who contested the polls, and the ruling party has so far only appointed one female parliamentarian, even as it is yet to announce its fourth senator.
The situation is a stark contrast to 2001, when the ULP first came to office, and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves boasted about five women among the government’s 17 parliamentarians,
“Mr. Speaker, you would notice on this side of the House that there are five women. I was hoping that perhaps there would have been an extra woman, but unfortunately, the circumstances has not so conspired it from the Opposition,” Gonsalves told Parliament in its April 17, 2001 meeting, the first after his government came to office.
“But I believe that we have a higher proportion of women on the Government side than in any Parliament in the English Speaking Caribbean. Indeed, there will be very few Parliaments who can boast five women on one side out of seventeen Members of Parliament. And I think we are doing pretty well, and we should try and improve upon it as we move into this 21st century,” the prime minister said then.
And while the number of women on the government side had been reduced to one among its 12 parliamentarians in the last Parliament, the figure is now one among 13, with one senatorial post still vacant.
In his speech at a ceremony in Kingstown to announce the new Cabinet, Gonsalves said he had advised Governor-General Dame Susan Dougan — the country’s first female head of state — on the appointment of three of the four senators on the government side in Parliament.
They are Julian Francis, the ULP’s general secretary, who has been a senator since the party came to office in March 2001, Ashelle Morgan, a 34-year-old lawyer, and Rochard Ballah, 36, a lecturer trained in communications and radio personality who goes by the moniker “Pitbull”.
“Ashelle holds university degrees in political science and law from the University of the West Indies and she has a professional qualification in law and she practices law in our country,” Gonsalves said.
“She has come from very humble beginnings. She has served on the Tenders Board for the last five or so years. She is a child of the education revolution. At the appropriate time, I will invite the House of Assembly to elect her as its Deputy Speaker when the House convenes on the 30th of November,” the prime minister said.
Gonsalves said that Ballah, whose full title he said may be read as “The Honourable Senator Rochard ‘DJ Superdawg Pitbull’ Ballah” is a parliamentary secretary in the office of the Prime Minister, and will have responsibility, under his guidance, for information.
“He’s a university graduate in media and communications from the University of the West Indies. He’s a lecturer at the St. Vincent and Grenadines Community College and he’s a popular DJ. I have been advised that he will be the first person to sit in Parliament with dreadlocks,” Gonsalves said.
The prime minister said he would “shortly” advise the governor-general, on the appointment of the fourth senator, “whom I intend to have assigned as a junior minister in my office, with responsibility for Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Trade.
“There are a lot of meetings to be held overseas in foreign affairs and foreign trade and many of them would not require my prime ministerial attendance. So I will have to get the junior minister to help me with some of that work, among with other things,” the prime minister said.