ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Tuesday January 21, 2020 – Prime Minister Gaston Browne has kicked Agriculture Minister Dean Jonas from his Cabinet but has given him a chance to return in six months, once he can make some changes, including improving the “toxic” relationships he has had with staff and farmers.
Browne, who said he had been impressing on Jonas the need to do better since about mid-2019, wrote a letter to the embattled minister yesterday, informing him that his termination would take effect that same day.
Giving the reasons for his decision, the Prime Minister wrote to Jonas: “For more than six months, I have tried to dissuade you from taking decisions inimical to good governance, and to my Government’s policy. My attempts have been in vain.
“Your relationship with your staff in the Ministry is toxic, and a continuous decline is evident from the reports that have reached me. The relationship with the farmers is also toxic and deteriorating further.”
But Browne gave some indication that Jonas, who is Member of Parliament for the St George’s constituency, could return to the ministerial position he held for a year and a half.
He said he would give Jonas a six-month “period of reflection” to “give thought to correcting the nature of the relationships and to reconciliation”. Once that period is over, the Prime Minister said, yesterday’s decision could be reversed.
“I continue to wish you all the very best, and advise that you take the half-year hiatus to reconsider approaches to the management of your responsibilities,” Browne’s correspondence ended.
The termination came on the heels of reported complaints about Jonas, and Browne saying on local radio just last weekend that the minister had not met the goals set for his ministry.
The Prime Minister said he had “a real stern discussion” with Jonas and had cautioned him to “set up” his performance. But Jonas subsequently defended himself, saying that the information used to assess his performance was “flawed”.
Jonas has been replaced as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs by Samantha Marshall who will also continue to carry out her substantive duties as Minister of Social Transformation and Human Resource Development. She was sworn in the same day of Jonas’ firing.