Sinckler denies split, downplays talk of Cabinet reshuffle
He has been the proverbial thorn in Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick’s side when it comes to getting Government’s approval for a US$250 million sugar restructuring proposal – at least that’s what Dr Estwick has indicated.
However, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has denied recent reports of a rift, saying as far as he was concerned there was no real problem to speak of between him and Dr Estwick.
Sinckler has further denied any knowledge of a November 17 letter written by Dr Estwick to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, and copied to members of Cabinet, in which the Minister of Agriculture accused the Minister of Finance of misleading Cabinet on the proposed Barbados Cane Industry Restructuring Project (BCIRP).
Barbados TODAY has obtained a copy of the letter in which Dr Estwick also called for Sinckler to be disciplined, while complaining that the BCIRP proposal had been before the Ministry of Finance for the past three months.
A frustrated Dr Estwick has since revealed in an interview with Barbados TODAY that he was at the end of his tether, and that he had gone as far as to tender his letter of resignation as head of Cabinet’s Infrastructural Committee, which he said the Prime Minister tore up.
However, Sinckler has denied any knowledge of that matter.
He has also said that, as far as he was concerned, the controversial sugar proposal was now out of his hands.
“I don’t know that there is any bone of contention in that particular regard. The proposal came to [my] ministry and we asked for additional information and we issued our comments and I believe those have been returned to the Ministry of Agriculture, who will then do the process of getting the Cabinet paper finalized and sent up to Cabinet,” said Sinckler, while refusing to comment on Dr Estwick’s November 17 letter to the Prime Minister.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen such and I can’t or shouldn’t respond to things I haven’t seen,” he said when questioned about the contents of the letter.
Asked directly if there was rift between him and Dr Estwick, Sinckler said: “Never has been.”
“In my view, we have gotten along very, very well, even before we were in Government. I don’t know that there is any issue. People have differences of opinion on technical professional matters all the time.
“That happens generically all over the place but you shouldn’t read into that that this [person] is not speaking to that [person] or this [person] wants to murder that [person] or what’s the case. That’s taking it a bit too far,” argued Sinckler.
In further downplaying reports of a serious strain in his relationship with Dr Estwick, he said: “The last time I saw Dr Estwick in Cabinet I spoke to him and he spoke to me too. In fact, we discussed the situation with table eggs. You know there is a shortage of table eggs and the Ministry of Agriculture has had to write to the Ministry of Finance requesting a duty waiver on the importation of eggs to try to ease that situation and that’s the matter that we discussed.”
However, when asked if was aware of any plans by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to reshuffle his 20-member ministerial team, Sinckler responded saying: “No, no, no. That is beyond my pay grade. I don’t get involved in those things [and] I haven’t heard that.”