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No Cabinet decision on stripping Harmon’s powers; APNU, AFC may discuss issue

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

Guyana’s ministerial cabinet on Tuesday (April 12, 2016) discussed the Alliance For Change’s desire for Minister of State, Joseph Harmon to be stripped of some of his responsibilities but no decision has been taken, according to credible sources.

“We heard from Mr. Harmon and it is just a matter now of assessing the facts,” the source said. The AFC wants, for instance, a senior or retired senior public servant to be appointed Cabinet Secretary.

Currently, Harmon is Cabinet Secretary, Secretary to the Defence Board and effectively Head of the Presidential Secretariat as well as Minister of State.

The AFC’s concerns, another source said, were not resolved but no time-frame has been set for the issue to be discussed again. “I can’t say. The issue is how we treat the information that was given.”

Demerara Waves Online News was told that the issue of Harmon’s multiple responsibilities could be discussed next between A Partnership for National Unity and the AFC because of the need to include the other members of the coalition such as the Working People’s Alliance (WPA). “It may be an issue that has to be discussed at the level of the AFC and APNU. I believe the better thing to do is to elevate our discussions at that level because there are more than parties in the coalition. Other parties have not raised these issues that we have raised so we have to talk with the coalition at a different level,”  the source said.

President David Granger has already said that he saw no need for Harmon to be stripped of responsibilities because no one had previously objected to the allocation of areas at a recent cabinet retreat.

The source sought to assure that the Harmon’s responsibilities and his recent controversial decisions to appoint prominent businessman, Brian “BK” Tiwari a ministerial advisor on Business Development and order the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to halt the seizure of two luxury vehicles belonging to the Chinese company, Baishan Lin were separate. The vehicles were subsequently seized by the GRA and President David Granger said that he has ordered that there be no intrusion in the work of other ministers.

However, the AFC said in a post-retreat statement on Sunday, April 10, 2016 that the “current difficulties which the government has encountered in the continuing revelations arising out of the appointment of the Advisor on Business Development and the issues surrounding this, have their roots in the concentration of the powers of the office of the Cabinet Secretary, the Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency  and the  effective Head of Presidential Secretariat in a single person. The responsibilities of each of the above portfolios are substantial and of critical importance to the smooth operations of the Government and would benefit  from separate appointments.”

Harmon’s decision with regards to the vehicles came  less than one week after he returned from a visit to China where he was seen in a photograph aboard a plane with top officials of Baishan Lin.