A dispute has broken out over the appointment of an Administrative Manager for Hope Coconut Industries Limited, with the Chairman of the Board Iamei Aowmathi over-ruling a decision by Agriculture Minister Noel Holder.
Moments after the appointee, Aseef Balmacoon, was told again by Aowmathi to leave his office, he made an impassioned plea for President David Granger to intervene in the matter. “I, Aseef Balmacoon, who campaigned for you to be President, Sir… are you going to allow a dictator who did nothing to put you in power to stop me from performing my duties and I am a youth who campaigned to put you in power and you are going to allow a man like this to ban me? “Come on, Mr. President, you have to do something,” said Balmacoon.
Several Hope Estate farmers came out in support of Balmacoon with placards, demanding that the Chairman be booted from office and the Administrative Manager be allowed to perform his duties.
Aowmathi claimed that Balmacoon was a Power of Attorney for land at Hope Estate that is the subject of a Court of Appeal case and so his appointment as Administrative Manager would be a conflict of interest. “You would understand that you cannot employ someone on the estate whose family, for whom you are acting as a Power of Attorney, as a manager because it’s a direct conflict of interest,” said the Chairman of the Board of Hope Coconut Industries Limited. Aowmathi is refusing Balmacoon from taking up his office also on the grounds that the Minister of Agriculture does not have the authority to appoint anyone and that the Board did not appoint Balmacoon.
Aowmathi showed reporters a copy of an un-signed and un-dated ‘letter’ that he said he dispatched to Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Monday, December 28, 2015.
However, both the father and his son denied that the latter was at any time a Power of Attorney or interested party in the court battle. “That’s the court’s business and not my business. That’s the court’s business and I am making it clear, I am a person of integrity and I am not going to take sides. Let the court decide who the tenants are,” the younger Balmacoon told reporters
Balmacoon said he resigned as a Director of Hope Coconut Industries Limited earlier this year to take up the appointment as Administrative Manager from December 1, 2015 to November 30, 2015.
In a letter dated December 17, 2015, the Chairman of Hope Coconut Industries Limited told Balmacoon that the appointment letter signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, George Jervis was illegal. Aowmathi argued that Jervis was not authorized by the Board to make appointments or perform functions on behalf of the company. “It means, therefore, that you are not a legitimate employee of the company and will not be allowed access to the Admin Office to perform the functions of Admin Manager, which is non-existent and fictitious, residing in the imagination of the Permanent Secretary,” said Aowmathi.
But on December 23, 2015 the Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder told the Chairman of the Board of Hope Coconut Industries Limited that with the introduction of the Public Corporations Act 1988 all corporations, including Hope, were dissolved and vested in the State under the relevant subject ministers and “therefore HCIL (Hope Coconut Industries Limited) was vested in the State with the Minister of Agriculture having sole responsibility.” “The approval of appointments to the Corporation (Hope Coconut Industries Limited) is the responsibility of the subject minister and does not need the approval of the Board.
On the issue of conflict of interest, the Agriculture Minister told the Chairman of the Board that if Balmacoon had remained as Director there would have existed a conflict of interest. “However since Mr, Balmacoon has resigned as a Director of the Board, he can be employed in any capacity he wishes since the conflict of interest as “Director” and “Employee” no longer exists.