General — 13 March 2009 — by Adele Ramos
Orange Walk East area representative, Hon. Marcel Cardona, has been sacked from Cabinet – this formal announcement being the first Government news hitting the media after the National Heroes and Benefactors holiday weekend, and six days after the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) lost three seats in Orange Walk Town Council with a razor-thin margin of victory over the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP).
It is a substantial shift in tide for the UDP in Orange Walk, and one for which sources indicate that Cardona is taking a great deal of flak, as some charge him for not having a strong enough presence on the ground in Orange Walk to deliver all seven seats for the UDP.
The issue was a live one on this morning’s KREM WUB, as one caller defended Cardona against allegations that he was not out working for the UDP in Orange Walk on Election Day.
The press release from the Government Press Office this morning announced the very first Cabinet shuffle since the UDP rose to power in February 2008, claiming that the changes are being made “in the interest of smooth functioning of the business of Government.”
One historic note: We now have our first Mennonite Minister of Government in the person of Elvin Penner, who has been promoted from Minister of State in the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment under Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega. Penner has been given the portfolios of “Youth, Sports, Information and Broadcasting.”
It is also significant that Marcel Cardona is no longer the Minister of Culture, and hence no longer responsible for the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) – which had been the subject of controversy in December 2008 and January 2009.
It is against this backdrop that a Cabinet shake-up that leaves Cardona on the backbenches of the National Assembly does not surprise many observers, since it had been rumored after his open clash with NICH president, Diane Haylock, over the David Gegg concession, that he would not have lasted long in Cabinet.
On KREM WUB back in early January, Cardona said publicly that the Prime Minister had handpicked Haylock for the job, and gave instructions for her appointment to be made, but he was later urged to retract that statement. The Prime Minister contended the decision was a Cabinet decision and not a unilateral one on his part.
Amandala’s attempts today to reach Hon. Cardona for comment proved futile, and we understand that he is currently not amenable to phone calls.
Penner takes Cardona’s place as of today, March 10.
At the same time, Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, is adding Culture to his portfolio, and now assumes responsibility for NICH.
Hon. Marco Pech, area representative for Orange Walk South, gets a promotion, and assumes Penner’s post of Minister of State in the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.
The Government Press Office reports that all other Ministerial appointments remain the same.