Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Agriculture minister fired

Published:Tuesday | January 21, 2020 | 6:30 AM


Prime Minister Gaston Browne yesterday said he had dismissed his agriculture minister, Dean Jonas, after indicating that he had for more than six months sought to dissuade the former cabinet minister “from taking decisions that are inimical to good governance”.

Browne wrote to Governor General Rodney Williams on Monday advising him “to terminate the duties and responsibilities” of Jonas, with immediate effect.

The move followed a meeting earlier on Monday between Browne and several workers from the Ministry of Agriculture.

In a separate letter to the former minister, Browne informed the parliamentary representative of the St George’s constituency, that “for more than six months, I have tried to dissuade you from taking decisions that are inimical to good governance, and to my government’s policy.

“My attempts have been in vain. Your relationship with your staff in the Ministry is toxic, and a continuous decline is evident from the reports that have reached me. The relationship with the farmers is also toxic and deteriorating further,” Browne wrote.

He said on the basis of the inabilities of the former minister “to develop a good working relationship with his staff and with farmers it has become necessary to provide the representative with a six-month period for reflection and contemplation as to how to achieve reconciliation”.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said that, under Section 71 (1) of the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution, the prime minister “is authorised to select or to terminate members of Cabinet”.

Last weekend, Browne, speaking on a radio programme here, said he was putting Jonas “under public notice that he either shape up or ship out” following public accusations that Jonas had not met the goals in the ministry since his appointment a year and a half ago.

But Jones, in a separate interview, told radio listeners that Browne may have taken his position based on flawed information.

“Well, I think the comment was…totally wrong,” Jonas said, adding that Browne had provided him with data “that clearly was wrong”.

He quoted Browne as saying that the information had been provided by a senior official in the Ministry of Agriculture.

‘What I wanted to point out is that the report card as suggested by the prime minister (based) on the information that he got was totally flawed and this is why I can say that his assessment of my performance in the ministry may have been flawed based on that information …that was totally flawed as well.”