The President’s latest reshuffle of his Cabinet was minor. It did not go far enough.
It has, however, created an imbalance within the government, with a minister within the Ministry of Education, essentially a junior Minister, being named as the person with responsibility for education. That person replaces Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, who has been reassigned responsibilities relating to the public service.
Education is too important a portfolio to place in the hands of someone who has only had experience as a junior Minister. Such an important portfolio should have been assigned to a senior Minister of the government.
The President has recognized this, and is reportedly going to assume responsibility for innovation in education. This is another way of saying that the President will be the de-facto Minister of Education.
But will the President be able, given his myriad responsibilities, to handle the additional workload which will go with him being the de-facto minister of Education? And is such a move desirable?
This compounds the problem for education, because the least thing that the education system needs at the moment is for the portfolio to be split between two ministries – the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of the Presidency.
This is all the more reason why there is concern over the timing of the decision to relieve Dr. Roopnarine of the education portfolio. Dr. Roopnarine has been ailing for some time now, but his removal as the Minister of Education seems a bit too premature, and ill-advisedly did not involve consultations with his party, which is symbolically an important component of APNU and the coalition.
The Working People’s Alliance (WPA) had reason to complain in the past that APNU was not meeting and that there was little consultation taking place. This means that the WPA, as a member of the coalition, has little or no input into the policies of the coalition government. In other words, the lack of consultation reduces the WPA to a rubber stamp within the government.
But the WPA probably knew that it would have been sidelined ever since the 2011 elections, when it had reason back then to complain about a lack of consultation in determining the list of candidates for the elections of that year.
The WPA will feel even more slighted, considering the timing of the announcement of Dr. Roopnarine’s removal from the education portfolio. The decision took place on June 13th, the 37th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney, the former co-leader of the party, widely believed to have been killed by the PNC government with which the WPA is now in bed.
There will be skeptics who will want to link what has happened to Dr. Roopnarine to the call for Walter Rodney’s policies to be part of the praxis of present-day governance. There will be elements who will feel that the removal of Dr. Roopnarine is a direct response to that call.
The WPA should ask for a clarification of the matter. It will have to consider the fact that Dr. Roopnarine’s health may have been a consideration in relieving him of the education portfolio.
But the WPA will also have to consider that he was not the only Minister who was has fallen ill. A junior Minister had to be wheel-chaired out of hospital to be in parliament. That Minister was not reshuffled. And a senior Minister was recently hospitalized. It is doubtful whether he will be relieved of his portfolio which in any event does not attract as heavy a workload as that of education.
The WPA will have to carefully analyze this situation. Even if it was felt that eventually Dr. Roopnarine’s health would have required him to cede the portfolio, he should have been at least given more time to recuperate before being relieved of his portfolio. It is not as if he was totally incapacitated.
He is now effectively a junior Minister, because the Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency has ministerial responsibility for the public service, and therefore Dr. Roopnarine will fall under him.
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