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Category: Trinidad Politics 06 Jun 10

It was not the stuff of grand theatre in Rienzi Complex on the night of May 24, when the crowds, in perfect cinematic symmetry, filled the halls upstairs, streamed downstairs, spilled outside, and jammed roads for miles around, creating a massive arc of light stabbing at the darkness. On Tuesday, the scene at the media briefing after the first Cabinet meeting of the People’s Partnership government was entirely different. The drama was not in the wide shot, but in the close-up. The post-Cabinet meeting was held at the office of the Prime Minister in St Clair. It is a hideous building, without any aesthetic appeal. The neon lights, grey structure, drab office carpet, nondescript walls make it impersonal and cold. It’s a pity that the former Prime Minister left White Hall, which was used with such gusto by the Basdeo Panday regime.


Even the unflattering office light and drab walls could not keep the animation from Persad-Bissessar’s face as she led her Cabinet for a photo opportunity. It was, as they sat there as a team and individually, that I allowed my eyes to rest on each as camera lens zooming in before panning to the next. Rhetoric would not work in this environment, nor would badinage. In those seconds, it was as if each Minister there was shedding his or her political self, exposed in the glare of the media. We need to familiarise ourselves with them if we want to hold them accountable. The Prime Minister, with a lawyer-like, smart black and white suit, and her right-hand man, the Minister of Finance, MP for Tunapuna Winston Dookeran, had already gone through this initiation. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar had acted as Attorney General in 1995, and was Minister of Education in 2000 under Panday administrations.


As Dookeran himself pointed out to me, with this new post he would have worked in almost every corner of the twin towers, as Minister of Planning and Mobilisation in 1986, Governor of the Central Bank, from 1997 to 2002, and now, as Minister of Finance. Economist Mary King looked ready to battle as she ought. As Minister of Planning, Economic, Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs, she was expected to go at the Udecott imbroglio head-on. National Security Minister Brig John Sandy was unperturbed as an army man can be. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, no stranger to adversarial moments, sat assured. There was a quiet confidence in the Ministers of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar; Education, Dr Tim Gopeesingh, who served as Health Minister under Panday; Arts and Culture, Winston “Gypsy” Peters, who has long made the transition from calypsonian to skilled politician.


There was a new humility in the person of Minister of Works Jack Warner. Minister of Justice Herbert Volney had on his judge-like poker face, which gave away nothing. Experienced politician, founding member of the ONR, former mayor Surujrattan Rambachan had found his place in the world as Minister of Foreign Affairs—and looked it. Dr Rupert Griffith, who has served as Speaker and Deputy Speaker under two Panday-led regimes, had a benign but stand-offish expression on his face, while Minister of Local Government Chandresh Sharma looked unusually thoughtful. Minister of Public Utilities Emmanuel George appeared cryptic (perhaps because we know less of him and expect a great deal). Ditto the Ministers of the People, Glenn Ramadharsingh; Health, Therese Baptiste Cornelis; Science, Technology and Tertiary Education, Fazal Karim; and Public Administration Rudrawatee Ramgoolam.

Minister of Tobago Development Vernelia Toppin could be a sweetheart until someone tries some nonsense on her. The genial Minister of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs, Vasant Bharath, has been through the baptism of fire in politics, and one got the feeling that he was treading carefully. And the Minister of Energy and Energy Affairs is a newcomer, but her smart outfit and a new manner gave a glimpse of the powerhouse she could be. Minister of Community Development Nizam Baksh, somehow, gives one the impression of a man of piety. Minister of Trade and Industry Stephen Cadiz had on his keenly-observant look, with the impression that won’t take him long to settle in. Minister of Housing and Environment Roodal Moonilal looked comfortable, given his long career in politics, as a former Minister, senator, and Opposition MP.


It will be interesting to watch Minister of Labour, Small and Micro Enterprises, Errol McLeod, now walk the tight rope between representing Government and labour interests. Finally, Anil Roberts, Minister of Sport, is sure to let his familiar voice be heard. It has been a cautionary tale, the rise and fall of fortunes these past four months. It’s surreal to witness a former Prime Minister who, on one day being hailed out by over 40,000 people drive away a solitary reviled figure, less than a week later. Similarly, in four short months, Kamla Persad-Bissessar went from an MP of a fractured opposition to a Prime Minister of a strong coalition. The signals that the people are ever watchful have never been stronger. The scrutiny intensifies.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur