No Cabinet decision on Harmon
No decision has been taken as it relates to trimming some of the duties and responsibilities of Minister of State Joseph Harmon after hours of discussion at Cabinet on Tuesday.The Alliance For Change (AFC), the small partner in the coalition Government, has called for Harmon to be stripped of some of the portfolios he holds in light of recent controversy involving the Minister.A Cabinet source told Guyana Times late Tuesday night that the matter came up for discussion, and Minister Harmon was given the opportunity to defend himself before the Cabinet, but no decision has been taken.“Well, I can tell you that Mr Harmon has the chance to sort of defend himself before Cabinet… That’s what happen (Tuesday), I really can’t go into details, but what I know is that Cabinet will now have to examine and analyse the various submissions before any decisions can be taken,” the Cabinet Member stated.Asked whether it was indicated how soon a decision could be taken, the source said: “I won’t be able to say.”On Sunday last, Harmon broke his silence after three weeks of sensationalised articles published by the Kaieteur News in an apparent smear campaign against him. He noted that he was not concerned by the current “organised campaign to damage his reputation” as it would not affect the way in which he performed his duties.In what appears to be a move aimed at tarnishing Harmon’s political career, Kaieteur News has been publishing a series of articles about the Minister’s decision to appoint businessman Brian Tiwari as his personal Adviser on Business Development and instructions he gave to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to halt a seizure of several vehicles from Chinese logging company BaiShanLin. The articles were skilfully designed in a manner to portray the Minister as corrupt.President David Granger had described claims of corruption against Harmon and his Government as “outrageous”, and stated that it was difficult for him to accept a blanket criticism of the entire Administration because of one incident.Following a retreat on Sunday, the AFC released a statement in which it called for Harmon’s powers to be trimmed. The AFC had explained that 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 the Presidential Secretariat in a single person was a matter of concern and the powers should be separated.The statement continued 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… 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.”However, the Head of State on Monday told reporters that he did not believe Harmon’s duties and responsibilities were at all too burdensome.“I don’t think that they are so burdensome that he cannot take all three responsibilities. I am standing by the duties which were assigned to him last May and this is what we have been working with for the last 11 months and this is what was explained to the Cabinet retreat in January,” the President said.Moreover, he posited that he was surprised that the AFC now seemed to find fault in the distribution of duties and responsibilities among Cabinet members.“We had a retreat of the Cabinet earlier this year and we put out a very clear statement on the responsibilities of all 14 Ministers and the Ministry of the Presidency. So there is a book and it is stated, and nobody made any objections to the duties which were assigned to the Minister of State then and it would be surprising that after two months, people feel that the duties are being misused or they need to be trimmed,” he explained.Minister Harmon has been one of the most proactive and competent ministers within the APNU/AFC Administration and has been a target of Kaieteur News’ vendetta because of his association with Tiwari, the cousin of Glenn Lall, Publisher of that newspaper.