Historically, new prime ministers would have Cabinet members sworn in at Government House but for the first time on Tuesday 6th December 2011, the House of Parliament was selected as the venue for the official swearing-in ceremony. Dr Kenny Anthony, in his opening address, justified the change by stating that the House of Parliament represents a fountain of political authority in our country. He highlighted the areas such as climate change, crime, infrastructure, education and health care that is of greatest concern for his new administration. Though acknowledging that because of the global crisis the challenges ahead will be hard, Anthony boasted of St Lucia’s reputation overseas and expects there to be many opportunities for investment and development.
Dr Anthony stated that in light of his party’s majority, he was mindful in determining and crafting the configuration of his Cabinet, adding that one of his elected members would have to serve as deputy Speaker of the House. “I also wanted to fashion a Cabinet that had the capacity and competence to be agile and efficient ad to be able to respond to changes in the domestic and external environments,” he said, “I am confident I have achieved this with the Cabinet that will be sworn-in today.”
Dr Anthony quoted the famous scientist, Albert Einstein after stating that he had restructured the ministerial portfolios to provide a better approach to deal with issues as they arise. “We cannot solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we create them,” he quoted.
“I intend to hold my Cabinet to very high standards and to insist on the highest level of efficiency, accountability and service from every single one of my ministers. Our goal is to restore good governance to our country and I will accept nothing less.”
Anthony announced that all governmental departments responsible for physical infrastructure will be consolidated into one ministry, namely the Ministry of Infrastructure, Ports Services and Transport which was allocated to Philip J Pierre. The PM also announced that this ministry will house a special unit called the Tomas Reconstruction Unit which will be responsible for rebuilding the communities affected after the passage of Hurricane Tomas.
Alva Baptiste was appointed as the Cabinet Minister of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation. Baptiste would be responsible for managing the country’s international political relations and also all administration of overseas mission and protocol arrangements. “A new area of this ministry would be the issue of maritime boundary limitation which will allow us to demarcate our socio-economic zone,” said Anthony.
As Dr Anthony explained the responsibilities of his Minister for Education, Human Resource Development and Labour, the cheering of the small crowd outside quickly indicated that the appointment of Dr Robert Lewis was no surprise and confirmed by the loud and lengthy applause inside the House. Dr Lewis who could not stop smiling reached out to shake the hands his fellow parliamentary colleagues. At the beginning of the ceremony, it was confirmed that Dr Desmond Long would not be the Minister of Health, Wellness and Gender Relations when he was not introduced as a member of Cabinet. Many supporters expected the prime minister to appoint Dr Long who has some hands on experience in the health sector but the prime minister chose to appoint Alvina Reynolds as St Lucia’s Minister of Health. It would appear that Dr Long could very well be the appointed deputy Speaker of the House.
Moses Jn Baptiste, the parliamentary representative for Vieux Fort North was appointed as the Minister of Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries and Rural Development. Harold Dalson, who is serving his second term as the parliamentary representative for Soufriere and the second SLP candidate to win two consecutive terms, was appointed Minister for Social Transformation and Local Government. Dalson who did not seem surprised, looked across to his Soufrierian supporters and smiled as he shook the hands of his Cabinet colleagues.
Those who expected Emma Hippolyte to work in an area where she has gained much experience (Social Transformation), were even more surprised when the PM announced that she had been appointed as the Minister of Commerce, Business Development and Consumer Affairs. But the PM did not stop there; to raise even more eyebrows, Dr Anthony appointed Ubaldus Raymond as the Parliamentary Secretary to that ministry.
Senator Victor La Corbiniere was appointed Minister of Home Affairs, Legal Affairs, and National Security while Shawn Edward was appointed Minister for Youth Development and Sports. Dr James Fletcher was assigned with the ministerial portfolio of Public Service, Energy, Science and Technology and Senator Stanley Felix was appointed as the Minister of Physical Development and Housing, which ironically was the portfolio of the incumbent Richard Frederick of the former administration. Arguably, of the many surprises that one may find with the new Cabinet, the biggest of the day was the appointment of Lorne Theophilus as the Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industry. One would have thought that an experienced and well-established individual would have been appointed in that office being that tourism is the biggest income generator for the country.
The prime minister who previously announced that he would choose a lighter portfolio, preferably minister of finance to focus more on the management of his team and the business of the country, added a few more responsibilities to his office; the PM is now the minister of finance, economic affairs, planning and social security.
As the PM closed he called his team “competent” and said he was very confident that they will work well together.
Said Anthony: “Within the first month of our administration we will follow the lead of our sister territory in Grenada and implement a Code of Conduct to govern the behaviour of our ministers. We will introduce a manual of procedures to guide the business of Cabinet.”
As the newly sworn in ministers made their way outside, scores of people flooded on the front end of House of Parliament to congratulate their new government. Kenny Anthony and his Cabinet made their way shortly after greeting the gathered supporters to the official residence of the prime minister where cocktails awaited them.