Old hands take charge of education, labour
Once ringfenced without portfolios in the Office of the Prime Minister, veteran politicians Karl Samuda and Mike Henry have been given a second wind with full appointments to the respective portfolios of education and labour.
The endorsement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Wednesday comes in the sunset of both men’s political careers.
While the rationale for the prime minister’s decision was unclear, neither Samuda, 78, nor Henry, 85, has indicated an intention to step aside from parliamentary representation.
Samuda was given oversight of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information following the resignation of Ruel Reid in March 2019 amid corruption allegations.
Holness announced Samuda’s promotion while addressing a meeting of the Council of the Caribbean Maritime University on Wednesday.
UNORTHODOX NIGHT WATCHMAN
Opposition Spokesperson on Education Peter Bunting and Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President Owen Speid both welcomed the appointment of the minister.
“The unorthodox night watchman arrangement for the last year and a half was really quite unsatisfactory,” Bunting told The Gleaner yesterday.
He further said: “It was unfair to the stakeholders in the strategically important education sector and uncharitable of the prime minister to place Minister Samuda in such an awkward position in the evening of his ministerial career.”
Speid had been calling for the selection of a full-time education minister since his appointment as JTA president in August 2019.
The teachers’ union boss said that he hopes that it will not just be the “ceremonial naming” of a minister but that he will be properly resourced and given “autonomy to lead in formulating and guiding the implementation of policies”.
The JTA president added that Samuda has the full support of the association, noting that the next two months would be critical in refining plans for the full reopening of schools in September. Schools were closed in mid-March because of coronavirus containment measures.
“We are willing to work along with him and his team to ensure that the future of Jamaica, our children, are well taken care of,” Speid said.
Henry’s appointment to the labour and social security portfolio takes effect today.
He replaces Shahine Robinson, who lost her battle with cancer on May 29.
Vice-president of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, Granville Valentine, congratulated Henry on his appointment but admitted that he was caught off-guard.
“I think the entire trade union movement will be surprised at this announcement,” Valentine told The Gleaner.
“It must be disappointing for the state minister, Zavia Mayne, who has worked tremendously well with the unions and for some time was in charge of the ministry by virtue of the illness of Minister Robinson.”
Valentine said that the ministry was a key organ of the State that should be handled with care.
“We have established an excellent relationship with the state minister. We had a wonderful relationship with the former minister, and we believed that for continuity, it would have gone that way,” he said.
“But that’s the call of the prime minister, and he knows best what he is looking for.”