CORRECTION: In the print version of this story, we incorrectly said there were 18 ministers in total. There are, in fact, 19.
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
WARNING of “immediate termination” as a consequence of “unethical” behaviour from Cabinet ministers and permanent secretaries, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis vowed to run his administration by the highest standards of conduct as 15 ministers took the oath of office at Government House yesterday.
This includes 12 substantive ministers and three ministers of state.
Carmichael MP-elect Desmond Bannister, who was absent from yesterday’s ceremony, will be sworn in as minister of works at a later date, Dr Minnis said.
During the ceremony where hundreds gathered to witness the remaining members of Dr Minnis’ administration sworn in, the nation’s new leader pledged that the government will be marked by “order and punctuality”.
He further suggested that this administration will be one of less talk and more action.
The new appointees - including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest and Attorney General Carl Bethel who were sworn in last Friday - will have their Cabinet meeting today.
This totals 19 ministers in total at the helm of this country’s government.
In May 2012, the Christie administration appointed a Cabinet of 21 - 16 ministers and five ministers of state. Three parliamentary secretaries were also appointed at the time.
“I repeat the charge that I made last week at the swearing in of two of your colleagues,” Dr Minnis said, “fidelity in the oath you swore today is essential in order to provide the
Bahamians people with a government of integrity.
“Good and open government demands transparency and accountability. Good governance demands being responsible for our actions.
“Accordingly I will hold ministers to the highest standards of ethical conduct in performance of their public duties,” Dr Minnis continued.
“And I want to send a message to my ministers: Should you engage in unsavoury or unethical requests to the permanent secretaries and I discover or find this out, you will immediately be fired.
“And I say to the permanent secretaries should you not report such behaviour and allow it to fester, you too will be fired.
“It is now the people’s time.”
Dr Minnis explained his decision not to take on a substantive ministry or portfolio, aside from those items which fall under the Office of the Prime Minister. He was previously minister of health under the former Ingraham administration.
“I made this decision in order to perform my primary constitutional duty as prime minister. This primary constitutional duty is the coordination and oversight of the Cabinet of the Bahamas.
“And as I have repeatedly noted, my government will be one of collegiality, collective responsibility and collaboration. I pledge also collaboration and regular consultation with parliamentary colleagues. “
He also said: “The most cohesive and more enduring families are those that combine the continuity, the experience and the wisdom of the elders alongside the energy and dynamism of new blood ready for change.
“When I was growing up my mother would remind me that in order to avoid bucking my toe, that I should get the advice of my elders and of people with experience when making a decision.”
In choosing the makeup of his Cabinet, the prime minister said he wanted effective and meaningful change. To do this, Dr Minnis said it was essential to include a new generation of leaders as well as ministers with experience in government.
Those who were sworn in yesterday are: St Anne’s MP-elect Brent Symonette, minister of financial services, trade and industry, and immigration; Bamboo Town MP-elect Renward Wells, minister of agriculture and marine resources; Elizabeth MP-elect Dr Duane Sands, minister of health; Mt Moriah MP-elect Marvin Dames, minister of national security and Sea Breeze MP-elect Lanisha Rolle, minister of social services and urban development.
The list also includes Southern Shores MP-elect Frankie Campbell, minister of transport and local government; South Beach MP-elect Jeffery Lloyd, minister of education; Marathon MP-elect Romauld Ferreira, minister of environment and housing; Dion Foulkes, minister of labour; North Abaco MP-elect Darren Henfield, minister of foreign affairs; Marco City MP-elect Michael Pintard, minister of youth, sports and culture and Free Town MP-elect Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism, aviation and Bahamasair.
The list also includes three junior ministers. Garden Hills MP-elect Brensil Rolle will serve as minister of state for the public service and National Insurance in the Office of the Prime Minister. Kwasi Thompson will serve as minister of state for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Yamacraw MP Elsworth Johnson will serve as minister of state for legal affairs in the Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Legal Affairs.
Mr Bannister, who was not present during yesterday’s ceremony reportedly for personal reasons, is expected to be sworn in as the minister of works soon.
Dr Minnis said to harness and hone the talents of the members of the new “people’s government,” Cabinet and parliamentary colleagues will have the benefit of an orientation programme conducted by Bahamian and international experts.
“This orientation will include information on the Constitution; our parliamentary system of government; public finance; the proper working of Cabinet government; a code of ethics and other relevant areas of government.
“My colleagues should remember that their role as Cabinet ministers is to set policy and to make sure that policy is carried out, not to act as administrators.
“We must never forget that we serve as the people’s government, and that means all the people. The spirit of democracy must be our constant companion and guiding light. Each day we must work to maintain the confidence and trust of the people who voted for a new day. Every decision we make must be with the intention of improving the lives of our people.
“If they see us working hard; if they see us using public funds wisely; if they see us doing their business with integrity and humility, then, and only then will we have truly earned their fuller trust,” Dr Minnis said.