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Shahine surprised by appointment to transport and works ministry

Published:Thursday | December 1, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

NORTH EAST St Ann Member of Parliament Shahine Robinson says she was surprised by the recommendation of Prime Minister Andrew Holness for her to be the next minister of transport and works.

"Having just been moved to local government and with the new developments there (transport and works) and my esteemed colleagues in the Cabinet, I am really surprised, but I thank the honourable prime minister for his confidence," Robinson told The Gleaner yesterday.

Jamaica House said Holness made the recommendation to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen. The appointment was to take effect immediately and followed the resignation of former Minister of Transport and Works Mike Henry, the media release said.

At the same time, Dr Alwin Hales, the permanent secretary in the transport ministry, has taken vacation leave effective today. This is to facilitate ongoing investigations into the controversial Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP).

Audrey Sewell, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, has been temporarily assigned as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works.

Henry resigned as transport and works minister Tuesday night, more than a week after he requested and received the resignation of Patrick Wong as CEO of the National Works Agency (NWA), which managed JDIP. It was revealed during Parliament's Public Accounts Committee that more than $60 million was spent on furniture for the NWA's offices.

This is in addition to $102 million of JDIP funds which has been used to refurbish the offices.

Robinson, who will relinquish the post of minister without portfolio with responsibility for local government in the Ministry of Housing, Environment, Water and Local Government, conceded that it might be a difficult task to take on the transport and works ministry at this time.

Anticipating adversities

"I will have to face the job and I will have to give it my best shot. In the greatest of adversities, opportunities present themselves. I am going in there knowing there might be adversities," she said.

Robinson has been a member of parliament since 2001. However, last year she was disqualified by the courts from sitting in Parliament after she was found to have sworn allegiance to a foreign power.

After renouncing her US citizenship, Robinson faced the electorate in North East St Ann and was re-elected in a by-election.

Holness told The Gleaner recently that he took the entire dual-citizenship matter into consideration before promoting her to minister without portfolio in the local government ministry.

"What was important to me is that she demonstrated, at the end of the day, her commitment to the country by relinquishing her (United States) citizenship," he said.

Robinson said she was mindful that there might be opposition to her appointment as a result of her dual-citizenship battle.

"When Christ was on Earth, He was criticised. I accept all criticisms and I respect all opinions," Robinson said.