Licudi steps down as Minister for Education, remains in Parliament as backbencher
The Minister for Education, Gilbert Licudi, stepped down from his ministerial role on Monday, in a surprise decision described by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo as “a blow” to the GSLP/Liberal government.
Mr Licudi, who plans to return to private practice as a lawyer, cited personal reasons for his decision but said he would remain in the Gibraltar Parliament as a GSLP backbench MP.
The announcement was made at a joint press conference during which Mr Picardo also gave details of a cabinet reshuffle, including the appointment of Dr John Cortes as the Minister for Education.
“This has not been an easy decision to take,” Mr Licudi said.
“The experience of the last few months with Covid-19 has led me to re-evaluate my position and to change my outlook and my priorities.”
“I have taken the view that it is now time for me to move on.”
Both Mr Picardo and Mr Licudi stressed that the development, which comes just days before the start of the new school term and against the backdrop of Covid-19 uncertainty, was not a result of any disagreement on policy.
Mr Licudi, who was voted into government in the 2011 general election, has been involved with the GSLP for 36 years.
On Monday he said the party represented all the values that were dear to him.
“That will not change as a result of the decision I am announcing today,” he told reporters.
Mr Picardo said he was saddened by the decision and regarded Mr Licudi as a friend as well as a colleague.
“Gilbert’s departure is unrelated to any policy disagreement or any other type of disagreement, we cannot emphasise that enough,” he said.
“But it is undoubtedly sad to see him go because we all in the Cabinet value greatly his contribution, his expertise and his friendship in the Government.”
And he added: “I want to be clear that my Cabinet colleagues and I respect Gilbert’s decision. We respect his reasoning.”
“But we regard this as a blow to the Government because he is not a person who can easily be replaced in the Executive. I know, however, that he will continue to be there for us.”
Mr Picardo said it is “absolutely right” that Mr Licudi should put his family first and act in accordance with his priorities.
The Chief Minister added that the Government would welcome Mr Licudi’s continued contribution in Parliament from the back benches.
"My view, as the Chief Minister and as the Leader of [the GSLP], is that Gilbert has a lot to contribute still and that he can contribute as a Member of Parliament on the back benches, in a way that is compatible with the decision he has made to return to practice and to concentrate on his family life and his personal life," Mr Picardo said.
He said too that the Government’s loss would be “the party’s gain” and that Mr Licudi would continue to work within the GSLP mechanisms and take up posts in its structures.
“I will feel the loss of Gilbert as a source of counsel, advice and political endeavour - and as a source of staunch political and intellectual support - greatly,” the Chief Minister said.
“I know he will still be there for me and other colleagues to consult when we need him.”
The ministerial portfolio for the Health Authority and promotion of healthy lifestyles, Elderly Residential Services and the Care Agency, as well as the control of drugs, rehabilitation and Bruce’s Farm, and the Fire Services will go to Samantha Sacramento in addition to the portfolios she already holds.
Paul Balban will take over from Mr Licudi to take on responsibility for Employment, Social Security, the Industrial Tribunal and Health and Safety.
Dr John Cortes will once again take on responsibility for Education and the University of Gibraltar from Mr Licudi.
The Port, Maritime Services including ship and yacht registration, the Gibraltar Air Terminal and new commercial aviation projects will go to Vijay Daryanani.
“This consolidates all aspects of transport under one ministry,” Mr Picardo said.
Mr Picardo said other changes will be announced in the coming weeks as the reshuffle is finalised as the Government adjusts with Mr Licudi’s departure.