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  • President Anthony Carmona and Minister of Public Utilities, Marlene McDonald during the swearing in ceremony June 30

    President Anthony Carmona and Minister of Public Utilities, Marlene McDonald during the swearing in ceremony June 30 | Photo: OPM Trinidad and Tobago

Marlene McDonald's term as Minister of Public Utilities is one of the shortest Ministerial stints in T&T history.

A Trinidadian Member of Parliament who was appointed to a Ministerial position on Friday had her appointment revoked by Prime Ministerial advice on Sunday.

Marlene McDonald's term as Minister of Public Utilities is one of the shortest Ministerial stints in T&T history.

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The reason for her short stint is that the Minister had, as her guest during her swearing-in ceremony, Cedric Burke, described by some as a community leader and by others as a "gang leader. 

The controversy centers around criticisms that a Government Minister would associate with a person alleged to be criminal.

Mr. Burke was also not invited by the Office of the President to the ceremony, prompting security concerns regarding the President's House - where the ceremony took place. According to Burke, he showed up and he was allowed access to the residence of the Head of State and was in close proximity of the Prime Minister and several Government Ministeries as well.

The incident was a central topic of conversation for the entire weekend, as Trinidadians and Tobagonians took to traditional and social media to voice their disquiet. 

"Ms. McDonald has a checkered political past," University Lecturer and Political Analyst Rhoda Bharath told teleSUR. "She was also under investigation in 2016 for abusing her power as MP and hiring a man who is believed to be her common-law husband and helping him to get national housing. In short, there were question marks about the MP's performance as a minister, and since she was only partially vindicated by investigations people questioned the Prime Minister's decision to re-appoint her as a Minister." 

For the disgraced Member of Parliament to be briefly restored to grace could also have a serious impact on Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley's credibility in the eyes of the public. On Sunday the Newsday reported that the Prime Minister was very angry that Burke had been allowed into the swearing in.

Senior Lecturer in Political Science, at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Dr. Hamid Ghany calls the incident an "unforced error" by the prime minister, who "knew upfront that the re-appointment of McDonald was a risk."

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Bharath agrees that Dr. Rowley's has to be concerned about how he and his government may be perceived as a result of this incident.

In a live press conference Monday, Rowley defended his initial appointment of McDonald, saying she had been cleared by the Integrity Commission of any wrongdoing on all previous matters.

The Caribbean leader said the latest incident was an entirely "new and separate" matter to any that happened before. Rowley added that his government will retain their ability to comment on matters of national interest, including crime "without compromise".


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