Princes Town MP, Barry Padarath slammed Prime Minister Keith Rowley for keeping MP Maxie Cuffie in the folds of the Cabinet indefinitely, despite his absence due to illness. Padarath said while the Opposition sympathized with Cuffie and wished him the best, it was obscene, unethical and unlawful for the Prime Minister to allow public funds at taxpayers’ expense to be paid to Cuffie indefinitely.
The Princes Town MP reminded the Prime Minister that he stated on October 1st 2016 that citizens “must wean themselves off the government”. He added that for the past seven months, Cuffie had been away from his portfolio, yet the government continues to pay him for work not being done.
The MP stated that in the Commonwealth, where we share conventions and traditions of governance, there were examples of how Prime Ministers and Ministers treat with Cabinet members who have fallen ill. He cited that in January of 2018 James Borkenshire, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland resigned from the Theresa May Cabinet, due to ill health that required him to be away from work indefinitely. The British Prime Minister indicated the possibility of Borkenshire returning to the Cabinet once he was well. Similarly in the Canadian Cabinet, former Public Works Minister Judy Foote resigned from the Cabinet in August 2017 due to ill health that required her as well to be away from the job indefinitely. Both Prime Ministers in those instances spoke with their Ministers and accepted the resignations promptly,
understanding that the public interest was paramount. Dr. Rowley has admitted that he has not spoken to Cuffie during his absence. In Cuffie’s case, where he fell ill rendering him incapacitated at times, the onus was on the Prime Minister to move swiftly to have Cuffie removed, until it was clear that he had the capacity to return and function effectively.
Padarath stated that in any organization or company, an employee does not have the benefit of receiving a salary and perks indefinitely while on sick leave. Good industrial relations practices would tell the Prime Minister that to allow that to take place can be deemed unlawful.
He added that while the Prime Minister had advised the population on several occasions to “wean yourselves off the government as the government cannot carry the weight on its shoulders anymore”, that appeared to be advice for everyone else other than he and his Ministers.
The Princes Town MP is calling on the Prime Minister to remove Cuffie from the Cabinet in the public interest, to save taxpayers’ dollars at a time when public servants are not receiving salaries and allowances, while there is no medicine in the nation’s hospitals and while there are so many unemployed citizens who cannot afford to buy food for their families.