Norton removes Figueira from shadow cabinet
Opposition Member of Parliament and Executive Member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Jermaine Figueira has been removed from the opposition shadow cabinet.
Figueira was informed that he was stripped of the shadow portfolio for Culture, Youth and Sport during a recent meeting of opposition Members of Parliament by Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton.
And though it comes amid other portfolio changes ahead of Monday’s presentation of the National Budget, Figueira was the only person who was relieved of a portfolio, reducing his speaking time in the National Assembly to only 15 minutes, instead of the 35 minutes he previously enjoyed.
The News Room understands that this does not affect Figueira’s chairmanship of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The other changes include the reassignment of Geeta Chandan- Edmond from the portfolio of Home Affairs to Governance. Home Affairs will now be shadowed by Khemraj Ramjattan who previously led on Agriculture. Vinceroy Jordon who had no portfolio was brought up to head Agriculture while Correta McDonald will hold the responsibility for Education.
McDonald’s previous portfolio of Labour will go to Denish Jaipaul who previously led on Social Services and Natasha Singh Lewis who previously held the portfolio for Education will take up Social Services.
So who takes up Figueira’s previously held portfolio of Culture, Youth and Sport?
Nima Flue Bess has been named as the Opposition MP to be the shadow Culture, Youth and Sport Minister. She did not have a portfolio previously.
It should be noted that just like the President, Norton reserves the right to make changes to his shadow cabinet.
In a telephone interview with the News Room on Wednesday, Figueira acknowledged this right of Norton.
“He is leader and if he, in his infinite wisdom, believes these change are needed to make the parliamentary opposition more potent, then so let it be,” Figueira said.
His upset is over the manner in which it was done.
“I hold no grievance with regards to her (Flue-Bess) replacing me. What I didn’t like is the manner in which it was done. I could have been accorded the respect of a prior conversation that would have been welcomed.
“I am a senior member of the party and I saw it as great disrespect,” the MP posited.
Figueira says he will focus on his other responsibilities as an MP and looks now to be a much more effective Chairman of the PAC.
He also assured that he will lend his support to his colleague who now takes up the shadow Culture, Youth and Sport portfolio.
“I believe my replacement is very passionate and competent and will do an excellent job and I will help her in every way to succeed,” Figueira said.
Politicians from both sides have said Norton’s decision is over his personal gripe with Figueira’s comradery with members of the incumbent PPP/C.
And in a letter to the Central Executive Committee of the PNC/R, Figueira himself questioned this.
“I question if this decision/action of me being penalized/ victimized is a result of my forthright attitude to speak my truth and being a free thinker and not a conformist, or was it because I disagreed with the Leader and not the Party’s position of not shaking the President’s hand policy in this modern era of political and diplomatic engagements. I shook the man’s hand that was extended towards me. I did it because it’s the sensible and courteous thing to do,” Figueira’s letter read.
Figueira used the letter to defend his work as an MP and the work he has done, sometimes in cooperation with the government to bring social relief to the people of Linden and Region 10.
“Has this party been able to find funding to provide for any consistent social or political programs? Which other MP has been able to consistently find funding for a sustained and consistent program? Which other MP or political arm of APNU has been able to bring the level of social or political relief to their constituents as I have? Who are the opposition MPs with greatest visibility and traction in the country?” he quizzed.
He ended with an appeal to the CEC to review the decision, and if it is found to be unwarranted, to reverse it.