By CAROL MATROO Wednesday, March 26 2014
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has revoked the ministerial post of Caroni Central MP Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh as Minister of the People and Social Development.
Persad-Bissessar fired him yesterday over reports that he was abusive to a flight attendant during a domestic flight last week on board Caribbean Airlines flight BW1519.
A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister last evening said the Prime Minister had advised President Anthony Carmona to revoke Ramadharsingh’s ministerial portfolio.
Persad-Bissessar announced her decision shortly after 7 pm, after receiving a report from Ramadharsingh hours earlier.
She had requested his account of the events aboard the airline, following complaints from flight attendant Ronelle Laidlow. She had spoken to him about stowing his luggage which he refused to do.
Laidlow alleged Ramadharsingh’s hand touched her breast when he reached for her ID badge, which was pinned to her blouse and he threatened to have her fired.
Persad-Bissessar received Ramadharsingh’s report yesterday, although he was supposed to have submitted it on Monday, but he asked for more time. He had previously told reporters he was tired and ill on the flight, denied touching Laidlow on her breast, but however apologised for his conduct. The Prime Minister further requested reports from WPC Pablo-Singh of the Piarco Police Station and flight attendant Ayana Hajarie, a witness to the incident. She was also to be furnished with a report from Caribbean Airlines.
In her statement, last evening, Persad-Bissessar said she was attending a funeral of a family friend when she received the report on Ramadharsingh’s behaviour. She was in Florida when the allegation became public.
“Upon my return I requested reports from the said Minister and the relevant authorities. Having read these reports and after meeting with the Minister I have arrived at a decision on the way forward,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“All my considerations are character driven. I hold no brief for any man or woman save the greater public interest. I am always aware of the higher expectation upon which this Government was elected and the immense responsibility each of us has to uphold public trust in all we do every single day of our lives. It is not a responsibility we can choose to have one day and lose the next,” she said. Persad-Bissessar said since her Government took office in 2010, she insisted that everyone must display a sound character of public integrity, fairness, humility, compassion and human dignity. “No man, nor woman for that matter has been allowed nor will be permitted to deviate from the very principles upon which we were elected by the people into office.
“I know there will be arguments put forward by some as to what was condoned in the past administration to allow for continuity, but I disagree. There must be no compromise on integrity, no allowance for arrogance, no room for violation of mutual respect; there will be no sacrifice of our values on the altar of political expediency. Regardless of whether the decisions I take hurt me politically or not, I have the strength and courage and independence of mind to measure every tough decision on the basis of what is right and just,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said regardless of the consequences, she remained resolved to do what was right. “My decisions in the past demonstrate this consistency regardless of whether you are in my Cabinet or not. No one is exempt from the measure of value based leadership,” she said.
This has been the fourth Cabinet reshuffle since the People’s Partnership came into power in 2010. The last reshuffle saw Gary Griffith taking over from Emmanuel George as National Security Minister; Gerald Hadeed was made Minister of Communications; and Clifton de Coteau replaced Verna St Rose-Greaves as Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development.
Tobago East MP and Minister in the Ministry of the People, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, last night said while she was sad about Ramadharsingh’s dismissal she supported the Prime Minister’s decision.
She said there has been no announcement who would fill the position at this time.
“I feel very sad because it’s my colleague, very hard working. The Prime Minister will make an announcement I imagine...I don’t have information that is pertinent to that. I trust it was done by the vision of the Prime Minister,” Alleyne-Toppin said.
Head of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Satnarine Maharaj, who had called for Ramadharsingh’s dismissal, said the Prime Minister would have made her decision based on the reaction of the people in the community, and not based on his influence. He also denied he was the only one who called for Ramadharsingh’s resignation, saying the Movement for Social Justice did the same. The Independent Liberal Party and the People’s National Movement also spoke out against Ramadharsingh.
“Other people called for his resignation because he was an exemplar, and the Prime Minister must show strength that they are prepared to act even if it is against one of their own. I agree I am one of the loud voices, but there were other people..there was media, letters in the media. I don’t believe she was reacting only to me, she was reacting to the general feeling of the population.
“I believe that Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar is a very strong politician, a very strong leader. I think that females generally in politics act with greater strength than men. I think that the population can feel satisfied that the Government is strong, is intact, they are prepared to take action and they are prepared to change the leadership in the Cabinet. This is clearly an indication that the leadership of the PP is very strong,” Maharaj said.
Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley, in a brief remark before a public meeting at Bon Air High School, Bon Air Gardens, Arouca, last evening, said, “It makes no difference, I’ll comment at an appropriate time.”
Newsday attempted to reach the flight attendant who filed the claim of misconduct on the part of Ramadharsingh, but calls to her cell phone revealed that all incoming calls to the number has been restricted.
Laidlow, who is fondly referred to as “Big Bird” by her colleagues at Caribbean Airlines, is reportedly on leave and has returned to her St Vincent home. She is expected back on the job shortly.