Trinidad PM fires minister for unacceptable behaviour

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, April 25, 2008 – Prime Minister Patrick Manning fired his Trade and Industry Minister for what he said was behaviour not befitting a Cabinet member. He said his decision to sack Dr. Keith Rowley had nothing to do with either his performance as minister or any personal grudge against his People’s National Movement (PNM) colleague.

It was in government press release on Wednesday that it was announced that Dr Lenny Saith would take over Dr Rowley’s position.

“Prime Minister Patrick Manning today advised His Excellency President George Maxwell Richards to revoke the appointment of Dr Keith Rowley as Minister of Trade and Industry with effect from today,” the release stated.

It added that the new arrangement “will ensure that the government’s programmes continue without interruption since Dr Saith has been chairing a number of Cabinet Committees and, with his vast experience, continuity is assured”.

The statement gave no explanation for the dismissal, but at a press conference on Thursday, Mr Manning said he took the decision after Dr Rowley’s reported unruly behaviour at a meeting with officials of the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDECOTT).

The prime minister said he was not in the island at the time of the meeting earlier this month, but he had spoken to a number of Cabinet ministers at that meeting and his understanding was that Dr Rowley was “out of line”, his attitude was “uncalled for” and unacceptable.

Mr Manning said it was after he asked for Dr Rowley’s resignation and he refused that he had informed President Richards to revoke his appointment.

Dr Rowley has however claimed he was dismissed because of his insistence that Cabinet have more oversight over UDECOTT.

“If I did something wrong I am prepared to stand the consequences. What I have difficulty with is being accused of something I didn’t do,” he said.