Monday 9 December, 2019

New Minister's appointment in limbo over citizenship issue

Robert Le Hunte (left) being sworn in as Public Utilities Minister alongside President Anthony Carmona (right).

Robert Le Hunte (left) being sworn in as Public Utilities Minister alongside President Anthony Carmona (right).

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has once again taken up the portfolio of Public Utilities Minister, after Robert Le Hunte who was only recently sworn in, was discovered to be a Ghanaian national.

This means that Le Hunte is not qualified to be a Minister, as according to section 42 (1) of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution, a person shall be qualified to be appointed as a Senator if, and shall not be qualified to be so appointed unless, he is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago of the age of 25 or over.

The Office of the Prime Minister noted that Le Hunte’s appointment as both a Minister and a Senator was suspended with immediate effect.

“It has come to the attention of the Honourable Prime Minister that Mr Robert Le Hunte is a citizen of Ghana and accordingly he is not qualified under section 42(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to be appointed as a Senator.”

“Accordingly, the Honourable Prime Minister has so informed the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.”

The four day Public Utilities Minister will be given an opportunity to relegate his citizenship status.

“Mr Le Hunte will be rectifying his position and once this is done the Honourable Prime Minister will appoint him as a Senator and as Minister of Public Utilities. Under these circumstances, until the matter is rectified, the Honourable Prime Minister will assume the portfolio of Minister of Public Utilities.”

According to the Office of the Prime Minister, the situation is expected to be rectified by Friday, September 1.

Under Section 42 of the Constitution, a person’s appointment as a senator can be disqualified if they are a citizen of a country other than Trinidad and Tobago having become such a citizen voluntarily or is under a declaration of allegiance to such a country.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has been managing the post of Public Utilities Minister since the revocation of the appointment of former Housing Minister Marlene McDonald.

McDonald spent two days as Minister after she was accompanied to her swearing-in ceremony by Cedric “Burkie” Burke who was in 2011 arrested and charged under the anti-gang law, arousing controversy.

History of appointments at the Public Utilities Ministry from September 2015:

  • Ancil Antoine was appointed on September 11, 2015, to October 30, 2016.
  • He was followed by Fitzgerald Hinds who was appointed on October 31, 2016, to June 29, 2017.
  • Marlene McDonald served as Minister from June 30 to July 1.
  • Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley held the position from July 1 to August 23 until Le Hunte’s appointment on August 24.

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