‘I caused chaos’
By Andre Bagoo Sunday, July 29 2012
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FORMER Health Minister, and current Ambassador to the United Nations office at Geneva, Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, is currently pictured in a video delivering a long, rambling speech in which she implies she was fired from her Cabinet post last year because she dared to take on doctors and “caused chaos” among them.
The speech was apparently made at a conference on diplomacy in Geneva, a video of which has been posted on the internet and has been circulated on social network and micro-blogging sites.
In the 37-minute plus speech posted on the YouTube channel of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD), Baptiste-Cornelis implies that she was fired as Health Minister by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in 2011 because she dared to take on doctors.
For the first time, she publically discussed how she ended up being handed the Health Ministry portfolio in 2010, noting she “taught the current Prime Minister” at the University of the West Indies.
In a lecture which was billed as being on the topic “Cultural Diversity as the Fourth Policy of Sustainable Development”, delivered on July 15 at the ICD, Baptiste-Cornelis also mentions how she met her husband over the internet under the online profile name “Tropical Bear”, her sister’s fertility; her hate of politics; her war with doctors and the hypocrisy of modern day Trinidadians. She reveals that she was asked to take up the Health Ministry portfolio 2010 in a 4.30 am phone-call from Persad-Bissessar hours before being sworn in on May 28.
“This is my first keynote speech since I became an Ambassador. I had thought that I stopped making speeches as I left being a minister so it is nice to be here,” Baptiste-Cornelis is heard saying in the video after being introduced by a chairperson.
She continued, revealing that she got the job as minister largely because she had taught Persad-Bissessar at university.
“Now coming from an academic background, my stint in the political arena was pretty short,” she says.
“I only entered the political arena because I taught the new Prime Minister, so the new Prime Minister wanted me to be part of her Government. She made me Minister of Health.”
She then discussed her short tenure — marked by her controversial efforts to have negligent doctors disciplined.
“I caused chaos,” she said.
“I told doctors they were making mistakes. They hated the fact that I pointed out that they were making mistakes. They pleaded for me to get out. So I agreed with them in that plea, so I gave them even much more stress so that they would plead louder.”
She was eventually fired and replaced by a doctor, Fuad Khan.
“And then I was replaced by the MP whom I was the campaign manager for in the elections. He’s a doctor. He took over,” she said.
“And I thought I would get back into teaching but I was sent here. I am actually the first non-career diplomat posted to Geneva.”
Baptiste-Cornelis said she never got a reason from Persad-Bissessar as to why she was sacked. She said she accepted a diplomatic post to Geneva, but admitted being a diplomat was even harder and claimed to have offered to quit this posting.
“I thought it would have been an easier job. It’s not. Being the Minister of Health was harder than teaching! And now as an ambassador, they ‘kinda’ cheated because they told me it was going to be to Geneva so I came, but it’s not just Geneva.”
“Am also in Paris for UNESCO and am in Berne and I’m in Vienna and I’m Ambassador to Italy and I am the Ambassador to Austria and I am like this is not right. I just came back from an FAO conference in Italy so Jack of all trades,” she said as the chairperson is heard laughing.
Of her personal life, Baptiste-Cornelis said, “My sister has six kids. Extremely fertile.”
She also discussed how she met her husband, Belgian Andre Cornelis.
“I am truly one of those persons who goes with the flow,” she said.