In a surprise move on Tuesday, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit , in an address to the nation, announced that his cabinet will undergo major rearrangement from as early as this week, to include a deputy prime minister, minister of ecclesiastical affairs and Jospeh Issac, former member of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP).
At a press conference last Wednesday, Issac, the parliamentary representative (MP) for the Roseau South Constituency, resigned from the UWP on the grounds of internal conflict, to become an independent member of parliament.Hon Joseph Issac minister for the environment, climate resilience, disaster management and urban renewal (Facebook ) Issac explained that he disagreed with the UWP’s political tactics, and at the time stated: “I have consistently spoken against this practice of tribal politics […] there is no place for the politics of black and white. Instead, what we need is the unification where all ideas can contend.”
He went on to say that as an independent member of parliament he will be “free to vote for and against policies of the government” consistent with his “philosophical belief and the impact of such policies on the people.”
At that press conference, Issac provided no room for questions, but on Tuesday, many answers were forthcoming with the prime minister’s announcement.
The Roseau South MP, Skerrit noted, will now serve as minister for the environment, climate resilience, disaster management and urban renewal; his first day in office is Thursday, April 12, 2018 – just 8 days after his resignation.
After what appears to be several consultations with Issac, his constituency delegation, senior members of the government and that of the Dominica Labour Party, Issac will now be responsible for crafting and coordinating government’s efforts toward adopting more climate smart strategies as the country remains at the fore of “international climate resilient focus.”
However, “Hon Issac, has not at this point joined the Dominica Labour Party. But, he has satisfied me of his focus in wanting to help the people of Roseau Central and to put his skills and services at the dispose of the government at the rebuilding of the new Dominica,” PM Skerrit clarified.
As for the rest of Cabinet, all but seven ministers have been assigned new or additional roles and responsibilities.
“The period ahead is even more challenging, and I consider it necessary to make a few adjustments to ministerial portfolios in the hope of fostering greater synergy and efficiency and to position ourselves to better respond to the needs of our citizens,” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit
Housing and agriculture shall be overseen by the two most senior members of the new cabinet of Dominica.
The prime minister, who is also the minister of finance and investment shall undertake ministerial responsibility for the housing sector. Thus, PM Skerrit is now also the minister for housing and land.
“I believe that housing in the next two years is critical to the success of our national rebuilding objectives and I therefore will, as of Thursday 12th April, assume ultimate responsibility for housing and lands, even though there shall be a minister in the ministry of housing and lands dealing with the day to day operations,” the prime minister stated. That minister is Hon Johnson Drigo, former minister of agriculture and fisheries.
Hon Reginald Austrie, will assume the position of deputy prime minister and the minister for agriculture, food and fisheries. In the prime minister’s absence, Austrie is expected to be acting prime minister and will be tasked with administrative functions for the coordination of the various ministries.
According PM Skerrit, the new office does not necessarily come from “a successor perspective” because he does not believe “the issue of leadership is something that can be bequeathed from one leader to another.” Instead, he stated, it is beneficial for matters of continuity and seamless transition in the day to day functioning of government.
A new portfolio of ecclesiastical affairs was created as “a direct response to the calls by many for a much deeper incorporation of Christian values and principles into every walk of life, including but not limited to, the functioning of government especially in the everyday management and operation of our schools.”
Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs, Family and Gender Affairs, Catherine Lady Daniel, will be directly involved with the strengthening of relations with the church as well as the incorporation of religious studies and programmes in all facets of the society.
“I am very excited about this new construct,” PM Skerrit revealed.
The ministries of tourism and culture will join to better coordinate and market cultural programmes as part of Dominica’s tourism product; Senator Robert Tonge will head that ministry.
Health and social services will also become a single ministry headed by Hon Kenneth Darroux.
Senator Miriam Blanchard has been assigned to the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development; Hon Justina Charles, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Constituency Empowerment; Dr. John Collin McIntyre, minister of public works, water resource management and ports and Ivor Stephenson will assume the role of Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Social Services and Health.
Levi Peter will continue as Attorney General. The ministerial portfolio of Hon. Rayburn Blackmoore, Ian Douglas, Petter Saint Jean, Francine Baron, Roslyn Paul, Kelver Darroux and Cassius Darroux remains unaffected.
The other expected changes will be a “phased refashioning and redeployment lasting over the course of the next 12 months. In a few weeks, we shall consider the redeployment of permanent secretaries and other very senior public officers,” the prime minister noted.