A decision by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to cancel today’s weekly meeting of his Cabinet has led to heightened speculation that a reshuffle of his ministers will be announced this week.
Holness, who worked from home last Thursday and Friday, has reportedly started meeting with individual Cabinet members who are expected to be impacted by the reshuffle.
“It is expected that a new-look Cabinet will be in place when it sits for its first meeting of this year on January 16,” said a Jamaica Observer source last weekend.
“It is clear that the PM is considering carefully the changes for the Cabinet which is expected to ensure that the Government has even more achievements, added to its already long list from 2020, going into the next general election,” added the source.
Holness has not confirmed or denied reports of the pending Cabinet changes and is yet to respond to an Observer story on November 13 which broke the news of the looming mid-term reshuffle.
Since then, other media houses have picked up the story and Holness gave only a cheeky smile and a “Merry Christmas” greeting when he was asked about the possibility during a December 28, 2022 media briefing where he announced the declaration of the latest states of emergency.
Instead, his information spokesman Robert Morgan chuckled as he told journalists, “That is not what we are here to discuss today; that is the prerogative of the prime minister.”
After being elected to serve a second-consecutive term in 2020, Holness announced his first Cabinet shuffle in January.
Late last year Observer sources said the prime minister had gone back to the drawing board for two main reasons, with the announcement then expected at the earliest before Christmas, and at the latest early this year.
“The prime minister wants some fresh thinking for the leadership of some ministries and he is also keeping an eye on the next general election as we approach the mid-term of the 2020 victory,” said an Observer source.
“Some of the changes will reflect the prime minister’s dissatisfaction with how the ministries are performing, but look for at least two strategic shifts which will be designed to ensure that, while the party remains in Government, the political machinery remains in good condition,” added the source.
At that time the Observer was told to pay keen attention to the ministries of national security, health, education, agriculture, and foreign affairs, as those could all see changes.
“I can’t speak for the prime minister but I expect that one change will be in the position of Leader of Government Business in the Lower House. While Ed [Bartlett] is a good man for the job, he is frequently overseas on official business as the minister of tourism so I expect “Babsy” [Olivia Grange] to get that job, and that is the only change I would bet on,” declared the source.
In the meantime, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang has invited the leadership of the Jamaica Constabulary Force to a luncheon this week in what the sources describe as a “unprecedented goodbye meeting” that could indicate that he is leaving the portfolio which he has headed for almost five years.
“If there is a shift in the Ministry of National Security it will not be because the PM has lost faith in Dr Chang. It must be remembered that Dr Chang is the party’s general secretary and, in a little over two years, we will have another general election to win, so Dr Chang could be shifted to a less demanding ministry to allow him time to do the groundwork that the party needs â€” and he is the best at that,” the source had claimed in November.