Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced on Monday the reshuffling of some ministerial positions due to the untimely death of his Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Franklin Khan.
Stuart Young was named to head this important ministry, while Fitzgerald Hinds replaced him in the Ministry of National Security, another key portfolio, and Foster Cummings, in turn, was given the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service, which Hinds previously headed.
The decision may have been rushed due to the unfortunate passing of Khan. Still, the usual questions about succession planning within the ruling People’s National Movement and by extension Government, have again come up from John Public.
Indeed, some are questioning whether Young has the experience to lead his current ministry, especially given the state of the global energy industry and the expertise that would be required to navigate it. Minister Young, in his capacity of Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, would have gained some experience in energy-related matters as part of delegations on such matters with the Prime Minister during the party’s first term and current tenure.
Despite this, one does not expect he will be the go-to repository of information in his new portfolio and will have to lean heavily on the technocrats in his ministry. It is possible, therefore, that the Prime Minister may be putting Young under more pressure than he can handle, unless of course it is only a stop-gap measure whilst another suitable prospect is found.
Hinds meanwhile has a slight edge having come from a legal background and also with a previous stint as Minister of State in the National Security Ministry under the Patrick Manning-led PNM regime in 2002-2007. Again, Hinds was bypassed by the Prime Minister in consideration for the portfolio when the PNM took office in its first term in 2015 and one wonders whether the Prime Minister is also looking elsewhere to fill this position in the future. Nevertheless, it is expected Hinds will be able to immediately call on past experience to deal with some of the pressing issues.
One of them will be the spiralling rate of murders in the country. Society has been appalled over the last few days with the killings of elderly citizens Utilda Joseph, 96, Anand Maharaj, 60, and Mervyn Prescott, 76.
Citizens continue to seek the comfort of returning to conducting day-to-day activities without the fear of becoming another crime statistic. But we are no closer to seeing the legislation needed to fill the existing loopholes in law needed to rid society of the crime scourge. This is due in part to the unsavoury behaviour of the Opposition when it comes to supporting crucial laws aimed at tackling gang-related activity, which continues to be the main cause of major crime.
Needless to say, Minister Young and Hinds in particular, and Minister Cummings to a lesser extent, have their work cut out for them and with the added pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will certainly be no honeymoon period for them. We certainly hope, for the sake of society, they accomplish their missions.