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United in prayer

Members of Cabinet pray before each meeting, says Clarke

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Senior Observer reporter douglasl@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 06, 2012    

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THERE is harmony in the Cabinet as the members are united and comfortable under the leadership of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, senior Cabinet member and chairman of the governing People's National Party Robert Pickersgill said yesterday.

Pickersgill, who is minister of water, land, environment and climate Change, said one element that has kept the Cabinet focused is praying, which it does at the commencement of its weekly Monday morning meetings.

"The Cabinet of which I am a member is very harmonious. The prime minister has instituted a practice every Monday morning before we start; we invite a minister of religion to say prayers and to give us a charge. It has been most helpful," Pickersgill told the Jamaica Observer.

The long-time party chairman and several of his Cabinet colleagues were at the Norman Manley International Airport yesterday for the unveiling of a bust of Manley, the founder of the PNP, on the 119th anniversary of his birth.

He was responding to questions about the unity in the Cabinet following comments by Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites that the recently introduced tax package, which brought some basic food items into the General Consumption Tax net, would be unbearable for the poor unless Government instituted proper social welfare programmes.

In the wake of those comments, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said Thwaites should resign if he was in disagreement with his Government's policies.

Pickersgill declined to comment on that particular matter, stating that it was the prerogative of the prime minister.

"When it comes to the Cabinet, the only person I know has the authority to speak about it is the prime minister, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller. It would be out of my bounds to make any comment," he said.

Pickersgill, however, indicated that Thwaites was not the first minister to come under fire for his comments.

"I think I can say each minister, every now and then, goes through his or her Garden of Gethsemane because once you are exposed to the public as politicians you will be criticised, none more so than the prime minister. But you can't be too bothered about these criticisms," he said.

Gethsemane, according to the Bible, was a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before Jesus's crucifixion.

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