Stating that it was necessary to advise the Governor General to make these appointments in the interest of confronting and defeating Belize’s crime crisis, Prime Minister of Belize Hon. Dean Barrow announced seven changes, including two additions to the Cabinet in a press conference at the NEMO Headquarters Training Room in the capital, Belmopan City, on Tuesday afternoon.
The announcement occurred in the shadow of Monday night’s shooting attack on the Prime Minister’s long-time law partner, Rodwell Williams, SC, outside the offices of Barrow and Williams on Albert Street around 8:00.
The Prime Minister opened the press conference with a plea to the nation and those present to “pray for Williams,” who was in a critical condition at Belize Healthcare Partners in Belize City on Tuesday ahead of preparations to fly him out of the country. (We will have more on this in a separate story.)
The Cabinet now has seventeen members – all male, not including five Ministers of State, which would bring the number to 22.
The biggest of the changes, especially in light of the much-publicised problems of Minister of National Security, Hon. Carlos Perdomo (Caribbean Shores), is his sideward move to a re-created Ministry of Defense in a split of the Ministry of National Security.
According to Hon. Barrow, the former National Security Minister had in effect admitted that the National Security portfolio was too big for him to handle alone.
Joining the Cabinet as a Senator-appointed-Minister is United Democratic Party chairman and businessman Douglas Singh, who is now Minister of Police and Public Security. Singh, who according to Barrow has experience in the public and private sector and has been a major part of creating the Government’s anti-crime strategy, to be unveiled on Wednesday, June 2, is “aware of the magnitude of (his) task.”
Hon. Singh is the first Senator to be appointed a Minister in the Dean Barrow administration.
There are also changes to what the Prime Minister called the “social ministries,” as part of a two-pronged approach to crime: getting “ruthless” about the criminal element, while also attacking the social problems that breed violence and dishonest activity.
To that end, Education Minister Patrick Faber (Collet) acquired the Youth portfolio and the Conscious Youth Development Program (CYDP), while Minister of Public Service and Elections and Boundaries, John Saldivar (Belmopan), got Sports.
(Saldivar is a former chairman of the Belize National Basketball Association (BNBA), now known as the Belize Basketball Federation (BBF).)
The Minister previously holding Youth and Sports, Elvin Penner (Cayo Northeast), keeps the ministries of Information and Broadcasting and acquires Public Utilities, including Belize Water Services and the postal services from Hon. Melvin Hulse (Stann Creek West), who holds on to National Emergency Management and Transport (NEMO).
Senior counsel, former Magistrate and Chief Magistrate and former House Speaker, Bernard Q. Pitts, who gives up his post at the Integrity Commission, has been appointed as the Barrow administration’s second Attorney General.
The new A.G., Barrow told Amandala during a question-and-answer session, is the first appointed under the recently passed Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, which enables the appointment of Attorneys General from outside the Cabinet. That amendment, coincidentally, took effect on Tuesday, but according to the Prime Minister, he did not specifically have anyone, including Pitts, in mind when that amendment was passed. A.G. Pitts will concentrate on reform in the Police Department and Judiciary.
Pitts replaces his former partner (in the law firm of Pitts and Elrington) Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington (Pickstock), who keeps his portfolios of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. The Prime Minister told Amandala that Hon. Elrington had voiced similar complaints as Hon. Perdomo did where his portfolios were concerned, namely that he was under “severe pressure” balancing his portfolios.
The question of which Chief Executive Officers (CEO) go where will be settled at a later date, but former Colonel George Lovell, currently with NEMO and Transport, will be tapped for the new Ministry of Police and Public Security. It is not clear if former Deputy Police Commissioner and CEO at National Security, Allen Whylie, goes with Perdomo to Defense, or walks away from Government service.
The appointments were made in consultation with senior UDP leaders in and out of Cabinet, including the four regional leaders and two deputy leaders of the UDP, all of whom are in Cabinet, Barrow said in response to a press question.
The Prime Minister, when questioned by Channel 5’s Isani Cayetano as to why the split in National Security was occasioned only now, denied that the Government had “sat on its hands,” and explained that all their initiatives so far “[did not] work in the way we would have liked [them] to work,” and said that today’s move was “something new… more radical.”
Concerning the questions of Singh’s and Pitts’ appointments and their impact on the national budget and resources, the Prime Minister said that more resources would be marshaled (he did not know from where) to fight the crime problem, and that in comparison, the salaries of the two new appointees were negligible in impact.
Barrow concluded that the expanded Cabinet was “united” and ready to tackle Belize’s problems.
Here is a listing of the new Cabinet as of June 1, 2010, changes highlighted:
Hon. Senator Douglas Singh – Minister of Police and Public Security (previously part of National Security)
Hon. Bernard Q. Pitts – Attorney General
Sitting members, having lost portfolio:
Hon. Carlos Perdomo – Minister of Defence (lost portion of what was previously National Security)
Hon. Elvin Penner – Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Utilities (lost Youth to Patrick Faber, Sports to John Saldivar; gains Public Utilities from Melvin Hulse)
Hon. Melvin Hulse – Minister of Transport, Communications and National Emergency Management (lost Public Utilities to Elvin Penner)
Hon. Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (lost Attorney General post to B.Q. Pitts)
Sitting members, having gained portfolio:
Hon. Elvin Penner – see above
Hon. Patrick Faber – Minister of Education and Youth (gained Youth from Elvin Penner)
Hon. John Saldivar – Minister of the Public Service, Governance Improvement, Election and Boundaries, and Sports (gained Sports from Elvin Penner)
Sitting members, with unchanged portfolios:
Hon. Dean Barrow – Prime Minister, Minister of Finance
Hon. Gaspar Vega – Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment
Hon. Manuel Heredia, Jr. – Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture
Hon. Pablo Marin – Minister of Health
Hon. Rene Montero – Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
Hon. Michael Finnegan – Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Hon. Peter Eden Martinez – Minister of Human Development and Social Transformation
Hon. Anthony “Boots” Martinez – Minister of Works
Hon. Erwin Contreras – Minister of Economic Development, Commerce, Industry and Consumer Protection
Hon. Gabriel Martinez – Minister of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development
Ministers of State (no portfolios changed):
Hon. Juan Coy – Human Development and Social Transformation
Hon. Edmond George Castro – Works
Hon. Michael Hutchinson – Local Government and Rural Development
Hon. Arthur William Roches – Health
Hon. Marco Pech – Natural Resources