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Junior Health Minister now Foreign Affairs Minister; Patterson-Yearwood reassigned “in the public interest”

Dr. Karen Cummings being sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Junior Health Minister Dr. Karen Cummings was Thursday elevated to the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, following Carl Greenidge’s resignation because he is a Guyanese-Briton and the Courts of have ruled that it is unconstitutional for dual citizenship holders to be parliamentarians.

Cummings took the oath of office before President David Granger at the Ministry of the Presidency. “I know it’s a lot of hard work, but I am prepared for the task and I hope to serve in this new office with distinction,” she told reporters.

Cummings plans to meet with Greenidge on Friday and benefit from his wealth of experience. “I still think that he can be my coach. It’s a new area and so I look forward to working with him and to hear from him what he has gone through, to share some of those information with me,” she told the state-owned National Communications Network (NCN).

The President said Cummings was appointed because the country could not be without a foreign minister and “it was my considered judgement that she was the fittest person to hold that portfolio”.

Also sworn in as a brand new minister was government backbencher, Hemraj Rajkumar, as Minister of Business to succeed Dominic Gaskin, also a British-Guyanese. He has already begun a familiarisation visit and already he has found it to be “very challenging”. Rajkumar, a pharmacist and lawyer, hoped that the plantain chip factory in Leguan will begin operations as part of his overall mission to promote consumption of local products.

“That would be one of my main things – to get people to first of all consume things that are local because if you produce and you don’t consume, then our manufacturing industry would not be really good as we want it to be. It may not be a top issue but it is a real issue that bothers me because I want to see manufacturing because I want to see farmers, I want to see people get into business, get their rewards of what they have done,” he said.

Minister of the Public Service, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley.

Dawn Hastings was also sworn in as Minister of State to take over from Joseph Harmon who says he has begun some months’ long process to give up his American citizenship and return as a parliamentarian. President David Granger described Hastings’ appointment as an “advancement”.

Harmon, now Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, was present at the swearing-in of the new ministers.

Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, Chairman of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), is also a new face in the Cabinet, as Minister of Public Service in the Ministry of the Presidency. She takes over from Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine who is a Guyanese-Briton.

President Granger said “it is up to” Greenidge and Roopnaraine, who were absent from the swearing-in ceremony, to decide whether they would continue to serve the government.

Commenting on alleged conflict of interest between then Housing Minister, Valerie Patterson-Yearwood and her husband, who is a contractor and benefited from Central Housing and Planning Authority contracts, the Guyanese leader said he was satisfied that she did not commit an offence and that she “is a fit and proper person” to be appointed Junior Agriculture Minister with responsibility for Rural Affairs.

“There were certain allegations and I felt that it would be in the public interest for her to go to another ministry. She has not been convicted of any crime and we feel that her services will be used in supporting the Minister of Agriculture with responsibility for rural affairs,” the President said.

Annette Ferguson has been reassigned to the Ministry of Communities to take up responsibility for housing.

Granger made it clear that then Junior Minister of Natural Resources Simona Broomes’ reassignment to Minister responsible for Youth Affairs at the Ministry of the Presidency did not mean that the youth portfolio has been taken away from Minister of Social Cohesion George Norton.

The President did not rule out more junior ministers being appointed after his Cabinet colleagues say they need assistance.