pulls up the team
if Works Minister Franklin Khan felt confident enough last
week to hint that polls are closer than you think,
Wednesdays bribery allegations in Parliament have raised
questions on whether that projection is accurate.
Or if indeedas a Cabinet source hinted Thursdaychanges
among ministerial ranks are more likely first, in order to
set the stage for polls.
Regardless of current play, PNM ministers are watching even
closer after certain action the leadership initiated in Finance
and Foreign Affairs in the last couple weeks.
Mid-term is a time when people begin thinking about performance
and how they may vote, says Pt Fortin MP Larry Achong, a former
PNM elections officer. UNC MPs Gillian Lucky and Fuad Khan
may have also set some thinking about integrity recently,
while the crime situation and allegations against PNM have
undoubtedly also aroused thought.
Several days of UNC headlines saw the spotlight spinning round
to the PNM whenwith leaders of both parties overseasthe
UNC hit back with allegations of bribery from a PNM councillor
against the Energy and Works Ministers. Damage control went
awry Friday when Councillor Dansam Dhansook failed to show
for a planned press briefing.
The Sealey Inquiry on the Tobago Hospital project may also
begin hearings next month. But investigations may not colour
Cabinet changes which the PNM source said are being contemplated.
His explanation on this:
are recent signals from Prime Minister (Patrick) Manning he
may be examining it more seriously in the context of streamlining
the team to obtain heightened performance in the face of public
service constraints which currently prevent this. Itll
all help prepare for the polls. Ministerial changes could
materialise, around mid year if the leader decides.
One of the signals, ministers note, is in Finance. On Thursday,
checks with that ministry yielded confirmation that the Estate
Business Development Companyhandling Caroni matterswas
removed from Junior Minister Christine Sahadeos Corporation
Sole portfolio and shifted to her colleague, Conrad Enill.
A Government spokesman also confirmed Manning asked Enill
to handle the portfolio until his return, following which
its expected Manning will address EBDCs board.
The source said dissatisfaction about handling of certain
issues could very well see Sahadeo being shifted
to strengthen Christine Kangaloos Social
Sahadeo took a hard line recently when UNC MP Robin Montano,
in the Senate recently, produced letters from persons alleging
sexual harassment by a top EBDC official.
The source said there was also concern over a misunderstanding
between Sahadeos division and the University of T&T
project supervised by PNM jefé Dr Ken Julien, a frequent
Whitehall visitor (as journalists attending briefings notice).
UTT was asked to report to the Finance Ministry on a million-dollar
sum in sync with rules that Finance must vet on certain such
matters including tendering. When UTT didnt meet that
condition, the source explained, a letter was written calling
UTT (and Julien) to book.
Officials from UTTs line ministry downplayed the issue
Friday: It was routine letter to all divisions but Finance
didnt have to be involved since UTT isnt a revenue
generating company, but a non-profit school organisation.
UTT received additional funding over the already allocated
$600 million, Thursdays media briefing revealed.
Thirdly, a Whitehall aide claimed: FCB chairman Ken
Gordon resigned citing Sahadeos interference last year.
Handling poverty alleviation plans in social development may
round off her sharp boardroom expertise with practice in a
more people-centric area.
Ministers also noted that Foreign Affairs Minister Knowlson
Gift (nor Ken Valley) accompanied Manning on his trip although
this involved lobbying FTAA support, which both ministers
are involved in.
Affairs was asked to clear up certain issues when Manning
returns, one source explained. But the ministry
may also require a more dynamic style. Tourism Minister Howard
Chin Lee, now handling a similar portfolio, may fit the bill.
Theres speculation changes could see Gift shifted to
a lower-key ministry like Science, Technology and Tertiary
Education while Colm Imbert handles something more challenging,
the official said.
Minister Camille Robinson-Regis is also languishing and may
have to play a bigger role possibly in the Attorney Generals
division, he added, denying AG John Jeremie went to
the US this week to investigate a cancer problem.
Jeremies moved it may be because hes more of a
technocrat than political animal was the officials
rationale. As for National Security, nobody can replace
Martin and replacing him would confirm admission failure on
the crime fight.
However, the source admitted Manning may be in a bind to implement
changes, especially where Keith Rowley, Franklin Khan and
Eric Williams are concerned since this may signal dissatisfaction
with them and could lend to the perception of guilt on allegations
Changes are also inevitable in the UNC. The investigating
team on the Lucky issue has set no deadline. The party is
observing both MPs behaviour in Parliament . Both were
absent for Fridays UNCs day in Parliamentprivate
The party is also rallying core support as Monday nights
Orange Valley meeting was obviously meant. Speakers dealt
peripherally with the rift, denying it.
only half of UNC MPs face the polls well still win,
projected MP Kelvin Ramnath. Not that Im saying
any are leaving, he added.
Panday, moving on the recent re-appearance of Ramesh Maharaj,
reminded members of Maharajs betrayal and
its non-effect on the UNC reinforcing his denials.
If the PNM administration is depending as heavily on weaknesses
or other Opposition failings to help choose an election date,
as some PNM officials believe, then the UNC indeed holds the
power on several counts. (And a tad more, after the corruption
allegations against the PNM.)
Although the UNC issue played political second fiddle to the
PNMs this week, UNC officials said theyre aware
of how precarious the rift matter is.
Ultimately, the investigating teams work may not only
determine Lucky and Khans political future and whether
its with the UNC or otherwise, but also the future of
the UNC and its leader.
Pandays verbage on the issue reinforces the view that
the UNC, at its crossroads, has arrived there suddenly on
the back of a fight the party must have known was inevitable
given its leadership: the ages-old, sad conflicting ideologies
of Young Turks and old warriors.
If reconciliation fails, it may signal the end of the line
not only for Lucky and Khan but also for investigating team
members Winston Dookeran and Gerry Yetming whove spearheaded
the push for reconciliation, officials confirm.
So far theyve kept silent on their own concerns about
the party and have gone along measuring the current issue
and Pandays responses.
But Pandays pointed remark on Monday that they
want to come in we house and say who must lead us left
no one in the UNC wondering to whom this was directed.
One MP said: Fuad Khan especially is baiting expulsion
saying hes going to be striking out.
On Monday, PNM San Juan officials confirmed theyve been
seeking a meeting with Khan.
On Tuesday, when asked about other options if expelled, Khan
said he wasnt entertaining approaches and is awaiting
MPs hope the situation doesnt reach breaking pointwhen
they believe the PNM may sound the election bellbut
instead makes the transition the party needs.Theyre
aware of the repercussions of expelling Lucky and Khan, including
those who may woo them.
The party is brushing off, for instance, Ramesh Maharaj (whose
return Khan once lobbied for) and his targeting of UNC members.
But there are also mixed signals from the entity with which
Maharaj is working. After NAR leader Lennox Sankersingh conceded
in February that NAR cannot go it alone, he began
lobbying Maharaj and others to form what Sankersingh said
is another 1986 NAR. Sankersingh was tight-lipped
when he spoke then, but a couple days later Maharaj spoke
at length about his party, projecting readiness
Sankersingh on Monday admitted he was unaware of Maharajs
statements. He said he and Maharaj hadnt communicated
since Maharaj was in court. He said the parties still have
to work out a democratic footing among themselves.
Maharaj said he isnt in peace talks with the UNC, but
Sankersingh said: Were keeping ourselves open
to work with everyone. We havent spoken formally to
UNC groups. But Ive spoken informally with UNC people.
We definitely want to speak with Panday, but those are among
things we must discuss among ourselves.
Sankersingh expects Bill Chaitan to be part of the entity.
Chaitan said in March his new party should be ready by August
and had denied any involvement with Maharaj. He didnt
return calls Tuesday.