Carl Bethel, QC, was appointed Attorney General by Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling during a brief ceremony at Government House on Friday. Mr Bethel has been named to the Senate, where he will serve as Leader of Government Business. Photo: Letisha Henderson/BIS
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis will establish a cabinet that features 16 ministerial portfolios, with the identities of the ministers expected to be revealed over the weekend, Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Sidney Collie said on Friday.
“There are 16 portfolios,” he said. “All 16 ministers have been identified. The Prime Minister himself will assign the portfolios. We’ll do that tonight. There were six junior ministers and about six parliamentary secretaries."
The administration hopes to swear in the new Cabinet ministers at Government House on Monday and have its first Cabinet meeting the next day.
Dr Minnis has already selected the 16 people who will be in his Cabinet and they will be assigned their positions on Friday night, Mr Collie said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest was sworn in as Minister of Finance at Government House on Friday while Carl Bethel was sworn in as the Attorney General.
The theme of trust was prominent in Dr Minnis' speech as he addressed the appointments of Mr Turnquest and Mr Bethel to their new posts.
Calling their appointments the beginning of the formation of the "people's government," Dr Minnis said transparency and accountability were often absent during the past five years but will be restored.
He drew applause when he said the "government will ensure that the public treasury is used for the public good rather than directed toward private interests".
"I will remind my ministers to avoid conflicts of interests in the exercise of their public duties," he said.
This is the first time a Prime Minister of the Bahamas has not taken on the role of Minister of Finance.
Mr Turnquest, a chartered accountant, will take on the hefty portfolio as his first Cabinet post after serving as the FNM's Shadow Minister of Finance over the last few years.
Mr Turnquest said before charting a course for the future he will go on a fact-finding mission to learn what has happened over the past five years with the country's finances.
Reducing the debt and recurring deficits are key priorities for the incoming administration, as well as helping the economy to grow, he said.
"This is not about enriching ourselves but about ensuring the services people require are delivered," he said.
In the short term, the government will focus on creating the annual budget, which is due in two weeks.
For his part, Mr Bethel will be one of the most experienced members of Dr Minnis' cabinet, having served as Attorney General between 2001 and 2002 and as a Cabinet member in three terms overall.
Mr Bethel was also appointed on Friday as Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate.
"(The Bahamian people) want to know where the VAT money went," he told reporters. "They want to know all of the decisions that were so highly questionable. They want to know what's in the sealed deal about Baha Mar, why the secrecy. We need to take drastic and quick steps to seek to restore confidence in the administration of justice and in the operations of the Office of the Attorney General where I think the perception arose that perhaps things were not where they were supposed to be.
"I hope to be an agent in restoring confidence in the administration of justice in the Bahamas."
The sealing of Baha Mar documents related to a deal with China Export Import Bank became a major political issue over the past year.
Mr Bethel said he will find out what the facts are and let that guide his approach.
"As I understand, it was sealed by a court order so obviously some approach would have to be taken; maybe some other arrangement could be arrived at."
A major policy promise of the FNM has been making the Department of Public Prosecutions independent of the Office of the Attorney General.
"That is a long stated policy of the FNM and of the present Prime Minister," Mr Bethel said. "He has been adamant about that and that is a policy that is not inconsistent with the intention of the organisation.
"Not only will (the Director of Public Prosecutions) be given independence on the day-to-day events and everything else," he said, "but we will also ensure that the office has the tools, resources and personnel that are necessary to enhance the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions."