Georgetown : The Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP) categorically states that the article appearing in the Guyana Times, headlined “Nagamootoo stripped of all ‘line responsibilities’ …now reports to Min of Presidency Harmon” on January 17, 2016 is deliberately misleading, if not malicious. MOTP also notes with great concern, the continued perpetuation of this misinformation by the Guyana Times in today’s edition of the newspaper in an article headlined “Nagamootoo’s shill insists PM was not “stripped”… President says otherwise.”
President Granger himself, in a brief comment, said that the publication of the article is a “malicious falsehood” and added that the Prime Minister's functions have actually been enhanced and he is First Vice-President in every respect and cannot be subordinate to any other minister. Further, in the Official Gazette published on Wednesday, January 6, 2016, the Prime Minister’s portfolio was expanded to include these additional responsibilities: Government and Parliamentary Business, Constitutional Commissions, Constitutional Reform and Governance.
The Prime Minister also maintains responsibility for Public Information, making him responsible for the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority, the National Communications Network, Guyana National Newspapers Limited and the Government Information Agency.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon, in an invited comment, called the report in the Guyana Times “distasteful” and “almost libelous”. He added that the newspaper has sunk to a new low with regard to journalism ethics and seems to have thrown truth out of the window. He said, “[It] says to me and to all of Guyana that they seem to be carrying out the agenda of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and that it seems as if this newspaper has actually replaced the Mirror as the official organ of the PPP.”
The Minister rejected the notion, posited by the Guyana Times that the Prime Minister reports to him, calling it wicked and malicious and called on all right-thinking Guyanese to rightly and roundly condemn the publishing of the article. “There is nowhere in the Constitution or in our arrangement where a Prime Minister can report to a Minister. The Prime Minister is the First Vice-President. He is the Acting President when the President leaves this country and has always performed those roles with distinction and with credit.”
The Minister added that this appears to be an attempt to attack the Coalition, but the body has never been stronger. He said that the PPP recognises the growing strength of the Coalition Government and this would explain the publishing of that article, which is bereft of truth.
“Every single day that we progress in Government, we are learning and as we go along we are actually getting much stronger. We are more a solid group, a solid block… to bring six parties together in a Coalition and to get the type of unity or unison that we are having right now, I believe is a tremendous achievement. We have actually brought people with diverse views [together] and we have now set a national programme, which all of the parties in the Coalition have actually bought into,” the State Minister said.
As with all Government decisions, the Minister noted that the change in Ministerial responsibility was done through a process of consultations as the members of the Coalition operate as a cohesive body. He said, “This was a result of extensive consultations between the President and the Prime Minister and then a wider level of consultations between the partners in the Coalition. The President does not get up one morning and says change this and change that. These are all processes of consultation.”
The Prime Minister himself plays a significant role in overall Government decision making. Minister Harmon said, “Every week we meet as a Cabinet and make decisions in relation to the governance of this country. Every week we meet as a National Security Council, chaired by the President and on which the Prime Minister sits as an integral part of it, to which all of the security forces report. Every month, we meet as a Defence Board looking at defence matters and which the Prime Minister, the President and the security forces, the Guyana Defence Force in particular; they sit there and make decisions. So at every decision making fora, the President and the Prime Minister sit together and make these decisions.
Minister Harmon went on to say that the Guyana Times is demonstrating a pattern of delivering misinformation to the Guyanese people and pointed to the publishing of an article headlined “Justice Cummings-Edwards’ appointment premature – former AG” on January 17, 2016. He noted that with Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang proceeding on leave, a vacuum was being created and hence Government moved, within the Constitution to ensure that the functions of the office would not come to a halt.
“[Justice Cummings-Edwards] was appointed to perform the functions of the Acting Chief Justice. She wasn’t appointed Chief Justice. She is carrying out those functions and we cannot leave the office vacant. Somebody has to carry out these functions so that for Mr. Ramson to make that a big story and this is the same newspaper carrying it, it is intellectual dishonesty,” Minister Harmon said.