Two newly appointed Ministers and a State Minister, in a restructured Cabinet, were sworn in by Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir. Patrick Allen, during a virtual ceremony on Tuesday (January 11).
They are former Attorney-General, Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, who is now Minister of the newly created Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs; Floyd Green, who has returned to the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM); and Franklin Witter, Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The Governor-General congratulated them on their appointment and implored them to discharge their responsibilities “faithfully and well, so that the people of Jamaica can benefit and the service that you give will be acceptable to all”.
Prime Minister Holness in his remarks noted that the new Ministers and State Minister have been chosen “because I have confidence in you that you will be able to accomplish the tasks set for you”.
He pointed out that the new Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs has a major task ahead of her to reform Jamaica’s laws to start the process of reviewing the country’s Constitution.
“Indeed, the conversation has already begun about our status as a constitutional monarchy and the change that we would all like to see. But there is a process to achieving that and we want to make sure that we order all our steps appropriately, and you will have the task of guiding that from the executive perspective,” he said.
The Prime Minister further noted that through this Ministry, greater effort will be made to ensure that when Jamaica is required to comply with its international obligations, such as treaties, this is consistent with the country’s legal framework and Constitution.
He pointed out that another issue that will be addressed though this new Ministry is the speed of development and passage of legislation.
“It has been a bottleneck for the Government effectively and efficiently achieving its mandate, and so in the establishment of this new Ministry, we are hoping and putting great faith in you to ensure that we have the wherewithal to make sure that the legislative process is supportive of all the other processes that Government undertakes,” he said.
He also welcomed back Minister Green, noting that he will have critical tasks to undertake, including taking charge of the National Identification System (NIDS).
“The laws have been passed, and we are now in execution phase… but it needs that kind of guidance, it needs dedicated ministerial attention to ensure that Jamaicans do come on board and participate fully in NIDS,” he said.
The Prime Minister also informed that there are also administrative issues that the Minister will need to pay attention to, such as the establishment of the National Identification and Registration Authority, adding that he will also be required to do “a great deal of advocacy” for NIDS.
Mr. Holness also welcomed State Minister Witter to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, as “we rebuild our agricultural sector” and the country recovers from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“It requires the mobilisation of our farmers and farming communities, and as we see what is happening globally with supply chains and the impact on prices, Jamaica must have the capacity to insulate itself somewhat. We won’t be able to do it fully and totally, but we must have local capacity here to supply our food needs,” he said.
The Prime Minister advised that part of State Minister Witter’s duty will be to mobilise farmers in rural areas and farming communities to ensure that the Government’s extension services are supporting them and that they get the support in resources and materials that they need, “so that at the local level, agriculture can meet the food needs of our people”.
Explaining the need for the Cabinet reshuffle, Mr. Holness argued that in any Government, there will always be need for human resource management.
“Like a company, like any organisation, you have to move your staff around; you have to place people in positions that suit their competences; and you have to pay attention to what the public that you serve is saying,” he said.
The Prime Minister informed that this is one iteration of the changes that will have to be made to the Cabinet “to get us to that point of fulfilling our mandate fully to the people,” adding that there will be more changes to come to the Cabinet later on in the year or as opportunities present themselves.
Mr. Holness stressed that while the Government “is in a difficult position, like Governments all around the world… we are a stable Government; we are a solid Government”.
“We have competent people, we have a clearly set goal and mission, and with the challenges we face with the pandemic, we can say, unlike most countries, that we have been surviving the pandemic, certainly from a fiscal standpoint, very well. We have challenges with crime, but we have our plans in place and we are steadily working through those and I wish to assure the people of Jamaica that we will not be deterred, and we are on the job 24/7 working in your service,” he said.