Minister's baffling decision

ALTHOUGH the Minister for Planning and Environment, Senator Freddie Cohen, can be proud of successfully piloting a new Island Plan through the States with its central policies intact, the portfolio that has been his for more than five years has clearly been a burden as well as source of rewarding experiences.

Neither Senator Cohen nor other Islanders will need to be reminded that some of his decisions – notably concerning development at Portelet – have been controversial to the point of spurring widespread outrage. In addition, in the wake of the Portelet controversy, the Senator became the focus of invective, abuse and even anti-semitic insults that must have been as deeply distasteful and hurtful to him as they were abhorrent to all right-thinking people.

It is against this background that the Senator has, rather abruptly, decided to set aside his responsibilities for environmental and planning matters by resigning as a minister.

But the fact that all this is in the background does not mean that either the Island's displeasure or the rantings of a sad minority are the driving forces behind his decision to resign. Indeed, he cites the pressures of the additional role that he accepted at the end of last year – Assistant Chief Minister for external relations – as the principal reason.

Few will be surprised that responsibility for political relations with the outside world is onerous. On the other hand, many would be surprised if Senator Cohen was unaware of the demands that his dual role would inevitably impose when he signed up for his second set of duties.

Islanders are, meanwhile, likely to find it hard to understand why anyone – including the Senator – might imagine that it is a good idea for the person who has been at the heart of the development of the new planning blueprint to hand over the whole shooting match to another politician now that there are just four months to run before a new Assembly of the States is constituted.

Senator Cohen has said that he will not be standing for re-election – in part because of the vicious slurs he has faced. It is, therefore, implicit that he has plans to achieve a great deal in the few weeks that he still has to serve in office while wearing his remaining, assistant ministerial, hat.

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