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SVG cabinet sworn in, amid protests

by Kenton X. Chance

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Monday night unveiled his 11-member Cabinet as opposition politicians continued to protest the results of the December 9 general elections.

“It must be affirmed, particularly to the supporters of the ULP (Unity Labour Party), that our electoral triumph, our victory, must not in any way engender in us a sense of triumphalism,” Gonsalves said as the Cabinet was sworn in at heritage Square in the capital.

Dr Ralph Gonsalves

Dr Ralph Gonsalves

The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) which has refused to accept the results of the polls staged a protest outside the office of the prime minister as the ceremony was taking place. The party has said it will file election petitions in the High Court on Tuesday.

Arnhim Eustace

Arnhim Eustace

The Electoral Office said that the ULP had won eight of the 15 seats contested in the elections, with the remainder going to the remainder going to the NDP that has vowed not to attend parliament until the results are nullified.

Prime Minister Gonsalves, who led his party to an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office, said “we ought to recognise that that the ecstasy of victory should be tempered by the realisation that St. Vincent and the Grenadines belongs to all of us, whatever our respective political party affiliation”,

Gonsalves said it is inevitable that competitive, democratic politics engender political partisanship “but such partisanship must be kept within reasonable limits and be seasons by mature reflection and action.

“It ought never to degenerate into naked divisiveness and god-eat-dog impulses. Intolerance, bile, and hatred have no part to play in the mature competitive politics of our Caribbean civilisation,” Gonsalves said.

“Raw ambitions, unrestrained personal agendas and a refusal to accept the reality of the declared election results constitute a combustible mix, if directed by irresponsible men and women. I offer unsolicited but honest advise to the NDP leadership that if you continue like this, it would only result in your accelerated political demise, a veritable political oblivion.”

He told the ceremony that the only place for the adjudication of an election is the court of law, not the streets.

Gonsalves new Cabinet showed a mixture of experience and newcomers, including women, with two members of his family being given ministerial appointments.

Prime Minister Gonsalves retains ministerial responsibilities for Finance, the Public Service, National Security, Grenadine Affairs, and Legal Affairs, while his son, Camillo, who was elected to office for the first time has been given the responsibility for Economic Planning, Sustainable Development, Industry, Trade, Information and Labour. The younger Gonsalves had served as foreign affairs minister in the previous administration.

The Prime Minister’s cousin and ULP general secretary, Julian Francis, has been appointed a senator for a fourth consecutive term, and holds ministerial responsibilities for Transport and Works, Urban Development and Local Government.

But probably the biggest surprise was the announcement of Luke Browne as Minister of Health Wellness and Environment. The 30-year-old politician, who was first appointed a senator in  2013, failed for a second time to unseat the NDP leader Arnhim Eustace in East Kingstown.

Browne, a national scholar, was a parliamentary secretary in the ministry of youth and sports in the last government.

Veteran politician, Sir Louis Straker, who came out of retirement to contest the Central Leeward seat, which he has represented from 1994 to 2010, has been again named Deputy Prime Minister. He also is also Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.

Montgomery Daniel, who like Gonsalves has been in government since the ULP first came to office in 2001, has been returned to the Ministry of Housing, Informal Human Settlement, Lands Surveys, and Physical Planning, while Cecil “Ces” McKie, who was re-elected to a second term as the representative for West St. George, is Minister of Tourism and Sports, portfolios he held in the previous administration.

Saboto Caesar is at the helm of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, and Rural Transformation, while new-comer, St. Clair “Jimmy” Prince, the former head of the state-owned Agency for Public Information, will lead the Ministry of Education, Ecclesiastical Affairs and National Reconciliation.

Deborah Charles, another political newcomer, joins the Attorney General Judith Jones Morgan, as the females in the Cabinet.

Charles, a former teacher who failed to unseat the NDP’s Daniel Cummings in West Kingstown, has been appointed a senator and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Ecclesiastical Affairs and National Reconciliation.

Gonsalves has already said he intends to have Parliament meet later this month to discuss the estimates for the 2015-16 national budget.

He told the ceremony that his new administration “shall govern with good sense and balance.

“We are one nation, one people, with one destiny, under one God,” he said, adding “no one will suffer from this government any discrimination on the grounds of political affiliation or beliefs, race, sex, religion, or other basis as detailed in our nation’s constitution.

“That is my solemn vow to each and every one who is reached by my words. And, as always, I apply in practise every day the dictum that the greatest exercise of power is the restraint in the use of that power,” Gonsalves said, noting that this practise is not a recipe for indecisiveness nor an invitation to disregard lawful authority.

“On the contrary, it reflects a deep, mature understanding of human nature and our democratic institutions, which lead to wise judgement, firm, yet sensitive actions,” he added. (CMC)

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