By Kiana Wilburg
Critics believe that Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, has crossed the line when it comes to respecting
the boundaries of responsible governance. They are saying that his actions as of recent will now place him under the shadows of distrust.
Those comments come in wake of a revelation by this newspaper that Harmon, on January 19, last, appointed businessman Brian “BK” Tiwarie as Ministerial Advisor on Business Development.
This publication made the appointment known on Monday last and it was rescinded by Government the following day.
Specifically, Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran said that he was shocked to learn that Harmon, a man who spoke against the appalling backdoor deals made by the PPP, would even do such a thing.
Goolsarran said what was even more shocking was the fact that three senior Cabinet members – Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, Vice President Khemraj Ramjattan and the Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin – have no knowledge of this appointment.
The anti-corruption advocate said that he is nevertheless comforted by the fact that President David Granger has rescinded the appointment one day after it was made public, not by the Government but by the private media.
Goolsarran said that it is evident that the President needs to place a curb on the tendency of the Minister of the Presidency to act unilaterally and without obtaining his prior approval.
He emphasized that the issue of making persons Ministerial Advisors should involve the formal engagement of Cabinet. The Chartered Accountant said that once a decision is made, it should be made public immediately.
Given Harmon’s actions, the columnist said that all major decisions taken by the Minister of the Presidency without approval of the President and/or Cabinet should be reviewed.
As it relates to Government’s “one-sentence” response on the entire matter, which merely said that the appointment was rescinded, Goolsarran said it clearly suggests that the President must have considered the disclosure embarrassing.
He opined that a Minister is involved, and the buck stops with the President, hence a guarded response. Goolsarran said that it could be that Granger is awaiting the return of the Minister from his business trip to explain himself.
The Chartered Accountant said that it is good that the present administration is acknowledging its mistakes and taking corrective action when these are brought to its attention.
Goolsarran believes that the Government will continue to make mistakes. He noted however, that the President needs to take whatever measures he considers necessary to minimize the extent of such mistakes.
He said that perhaps, the time has come for the President to review the performance of his Ministers before it is too late.
University Professor, Dr. David Hinds is of the belief that the recent developments in relation to Tiwarie points to the problem of administering Coalition Governments.
He said, “Although I am a proponent of these types of governments, I do recognize that for those governments
to be effective there has to be a shift in the political culture. I would not lay any individual responsibility at Minister Harmon’s feet. I don’t know whether he overstepped his authority.”
He continued, “But I would imagine that a Minister does have some scope when it comes to what he or she could do without prior consultation. Having said that I think appointing BK as an advisor should not be a matter for an individual Minister or any individual faction of the government to decide.”
Dr. Hinds said that BK is controversial and is linked to the small cabal to which state resources were unlawfully transferred. The University professor said that Tiwarie may have shifted allegiance, but that does not remove the taint.
Dr. Hinds said, too, that Government’s abrupt one-line statement on the issue amounts to an admission of a mistake. He said that the issue exposes a lack of sufficient engagement by the Coalition Partners outside of Cabinet.
The political activist said that it is clear that the decision was not sanctioned by all the partners.
He said however that this problem is one that started within the APNU and has been transferred to the Coalition. He noted however that the problem—a lack of proper consultation—will have consequences for the Government.
Dr. Hinds said, “There is always the temptation for the large faction of a coalition to act as a hegemony, but that has to be tempered if the Coalition is to work effectively.”
He added, “I know that consultation is not instinctively part of our party political culture, but the effort has to be made. There is need for mechanisms outside of the Cabinet to deal with these larger sensitive political
issues. The President and Ministers are busy and it is difficult for them to make and carry out policies simultaneously. So there must be advisory bodies made up of representatives of all the parties whose job is to think through these things and to offer advice to the Cabinet.”
Hinds opined that the new administration has once again misread the mood of the country, especially its own supporters. He emphasized that there is no appetite among Government supporters for the inclusion of persons closely associated with the former regime.
He said, “I was severely criticized by some Government insiders for making this observation when it was speculated that the government wanted to employ PPP members, Robert Persaud and Nanda Gopaul. People simply do not want any of those persons around the seat of power.”
Dr. Hinds added, “I do understand that in some instances the government has to deal with these people for the simple reason that they own most of the resources, the capital that are needed to keep the economy going. I think this is the case with BK.”
The political activist emphasized however that the government has to be very clear what price they are prepared to pay to be able to deal with such persons. He stressed however that there has to be a cut-off point. He said that making such persons advisors is clearly too high a price.
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