Four new APNU+AFC government Members of Parliament (MPs) were sworn in yesterday when the National Assembly resumed sitting after a hiatus of almost four months.
Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, who was earlier announced as the Public Service Minister designate, ministerial advisor Mervyn Williams, farmer Reynard Ward and NCN Berbice Branch Manager Donna Mathoo were sworn in to replace four ministers who were forced to resign due to the courts recently affirming that persons with dual citizenship are ineligible to be MPs.
The rulings stemmed from court actions initiated in the wake of the PPP/C no-confidence motion against government being declared passed last December. With the Caribbean Court of Justice due to pronounce on the validity of the motion after hearings slated for next month, opposition PPP/C MPs did not attend yesterday’s sitting, which was the first to be held since January 3rd.
Sarabo-Halley is replacing fellow Working People’s Alliance (WPA) member Dr Rupert Roopnaraine both as a government MP and minister following his resignation due to his dual citizenship.
Sarabo-Halley said that her appointment will now allow her to serve Guyana in a greater capacity but she said she did not want to say anything further until she was sworn-in and had a chance to visit the Ministry of Public Service.
In a statement issued yesterday, the WPA saluted her political elevation to the national responsibility thrust on her by the party, APNU, the coalition and President David Granger. “We stand ready to give our full support to ensure that the new Public Service Minister and Parliamentarian is successful in her new roles,” it said. “As a younger generation political leader, woman and strong advocate of youth empowerment, her appointment symbolises WPA’s enduring commitment to and support for youth and gender equality,” the party added.
The WPA said it expects that her presence in the Cabinet will greatly enhance relations between the WPA’s Executive and the Cabinet, which has been a point of contention for some time. “For us, this marks a new and significant phase in our relations within the APNU, the Coalition and the Government. We are confident that her appointment will strengthen our collective efforts to prevail in the general and regional elections, whenever they are held,” it said.
The party also noted its appreciation for Roopnaraine’s “years of selfless service” in advancing the interests of the people of Guyana and offer its continued support to him in keeping with his desire to serve the people of Guyana.
The other ministers forced to resign due to being dual citizens were Joseph Harmon, who was State Minister; Dominic Gaskin, who was Business Minister and Carl Greenidge, who was Foreign Affairs Minister.
‘Hitting the ground running’
Meanwhile, Williams, who previously served as an MP for the PNCR during its time in opposition, said that the call to service is even more special considering that his party is now on the government side of the House. He added that while it is a “little bit late,” he is going to work towards “hitting the ground running.”
“It’s like bowling in the death overs of a 20/20 match but the good news is that the scorecard is looking very good and easy to defend,” said Williams, who is an advisor to Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock.
He pointed out that his focus would be supporting the two ministers in charge of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, especially as it relates to accelerating the review of the Amerindian Act.
“There is also the issue of land… that will take front stage. The indigenous
communities are growing and they are releasing themselves from the shackles of what used to be, and in fact they are more self-reliant now in terms of the way they do things,” he pointed out, while noting that focus will also be placed on ensuring that the development gap between the coastal and hinterland regions is “sewed up.”
Ward, who hails from the East Bank of Berbice, pointed out that since he is from an agriculture background, he will be focusing on young people in agriculture, rural to urban migration issues and the creation of jobs within the rural communities. “Both my parents are farmers and I am a farmer myself, among other things within the agriculture sector,” he said, while adding that his selection is a testament to the APNU+AFC’s promise of involving young people.
Mathoo echoed his sentiments. She stated that she was unaware of the appointment until late Thursday night. “I was really humbled and I am happy that I can be here to better serve my people. I know I can do more here and make an impact here for my fellow women and especially for youths,” she said, while noting that her focus will be on addressing domestic violence and empowering women.
Both Ward and Mathoo are AFC members.