New Cabinet a mix of new and old
Several FNMs who were previously ensnared by controversy have been appointed to the Cabinet, insisting that those matters are long behind them and they are focused on working with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to address critical issues facing The Bahamas.
The 19-member Cabinet includes just one woman: Lanisha Rolle, who resigned ago over a matter that worsened tensions in the Free National Movement (FNM) at the time.
Rolle was sworn in yesterday as minister of social services and urban development.
“I have a big responsibility and I just want to do my best to represent the females in the country and do what is necessary to uplift our people at this time,” she said at Government House.
“They have been going through a rough five years, and I believe that it is a breath of fresh air to have new faces and new talent around the table, and we are just going to work hard and work together to do what is right by and for the Bahamian people.”
Rolle resigned after a recording of a conversation she had with Lincoln Bain — who at the time was seeking the FNM’s nomination for Pinewood — went viral. She had spoken disparagingly about some senior members of the FNM.
But with that controversy long behind her, Rolle was elected last week as the member of Parliament for Seabreeze.
Asked her thoughts on being the only woman appointed to Cabinet, Rolle said it was a privilege.
Minnis has appointed Renward Wells, the Bamboo Town MP-elect, as minister of agriculture and marine resources.
Wells was also elected in 2012, but as a Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MP.
In July 2014, he attracted great controversy after he signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Stellar Waste to Energy for a $600 million project at the New Providence Landfill without proper authorization.
Then Prime Minister Perry Christie asked Wells to resign, but he refused to do so.
Christie took three months before he fired Wells. By then, the matter had become explosive.
Wells joined the FNM the following year after relations with the PLP continued to sour.
He believes he can finally put the LOI matter to rest now.
“I think that LOI matter is completely behind me,” he told The Nassau Guardian after his swearing in.
“I spoke to it in the House of Assembly on four separate occasions for two hours. I have spoken about it on 30 talk shows over the past two years. I have answered every question, and you know, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
“The people of Bamboo Town were constantly told about it by both of my opponents and the pushback from them was that they have heard everything they needed to hear about it, and I think the fact that they have voted for me again overwhelmingly says that the matter has been put behind me.”
Speaking further of his election to Parliament, Wells said, “It is a consolation and really an affirmation and a stamp of approval from the Bahamian people.
“…But right now being appointed to the executive branch of government, I am very, very excited about bringing real food security to The Bahamas.
“I believe that the half has never yet been told about what is possible in the marine environment in The Bahamas, and I look forward to fundamentally transforming the amount of benefits that the Bahamian people get from the environment and making it the ministry it should be.”
Another newly appointed minister who saw huge controversy was Michael Pintard.
Pintard was sworn in as minister of Youth, Sports and Culture.
Last year, he resigned as chairman of the FNM and from the Senate over his involvement in an alleged murder plot supposedly targeting members of Save The Bays and billionaire Lyford Cay resident Louis Bacon.
They alleged that fashion mogul Peter Nygard and attorney Keod Smith threatened to have them killed — a claim both Nygard and Smith denied.
Pintard claimed he uncovered the plot, but he failed to report it to the police.
“I’ve not spent a whole lot of time dwelling on the relentless attack launched by the former government on me,” Pintard said yesterday.
“While self-preservation sometimes is the first instinct that persons have, I have always recognized that I would be fine, but it was about standing in the gap for those residents who are having challenges.”
Former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette was sworn in as minister of financial services, trade and industry, and immigration.
Ahead of the general election, the PLP constantly raised the 2001 conflict of interest matter involving the Airport Authority when he was chairman.
During his tenure, the authority awarded a contract to a paving company in which Symonette has a financial interest.
He resigned over the matter.
He has since served in the Cabinet of Hubert Ingraham. He retired at the end of 2012 and announced earlier this year his return to frontline politics.
He again won St. Anne’s in last week’s election.
Yesterday, Symonette said, “There are some challenges in the financial services industry that we are going to have to face very quickly and there will be some decisions made in short order, which we will make public.
“The first item (to address) will be in Cabinet, where we will be discussing the current status of The Bahamas, the economy and the way forward.”
New and experienced
Yesterday, Dion Foulkes, a former labor minister in the Ingraham Cabinet, was sworn in as minister of labor.
“It feels good to be part of the government and again we have some serious issues in the country,” Foulkes said.
“I think the prime minister was very wise in getting a Cabinet together that has experienced ministers and also some newcomers.
“I feel that we are going to get together tomorrow morning and we are going to deal with the issues affecting the Bahamian people.”
Speaking to his labor portfolio, Foulkes said his main objective is to ensure unions and workers have a harmonious relationship with employers.
Asked to address the disappointment some people have that Minnis has brought in some old faces, Foulkes said, “I think there is a large section of this country who feel confident to note that there are experienced hands on the wheel in government.”
Foulkes will be appointed to the Senate.
Political newcomer Darren Henfield was sworn in as minister of foreign affairs.
He was elected for North Abaco.
Henfield told The Guardian yesterday, “It’s surreal to be standing where I am today as the minister of foreign affairs.
“The first priority will be to assess where we are in foreign affairs, to finish up some things that we have discarded.”
The first meeting of the new Cabinet is this morning.