Minister of State Joseph Harmon has broken his silence over his decision to appoint businessman and financier of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Brian Tiwari as Ministerial Adviser on Business Development.
Harmon, being criticised by many including members of his own government, has now revealed that his action was above-board, since Tiwari is among scores of other “campaign supporters” who have also received similar “instruments” that were signed by him.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon
“We have issued several instruments like these to persons both from the APNU and the AFC side… I have signed it for many persons who have helped us in the campaign and those who have the capacity to help us further,” he told at least one local media house.
Harmon is also maintaining that the title of Ministerial Adviser bestowed upon Tiwari and other “campaign supporters” was merely “honorific titles”.
“These are what you call honorific titles and this has nothing to do with a person getting or drawing down any particular benefit from the government,” he said.
Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira
Tiwari’s instrument of appointment was issued on January 19, 2016 and bore the signature of Harmon, but that appointment was only made public last week when the local media began reporting on it.
Notably, Tiwari was on Harmon’s delegation which recently returned from a state business trip to China
Tiwari was expected to provide advisory services to Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin, but Gaskin said he was never aware of the appointment and only learnt of it when the media broke the news.
Similarly, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo said he was never aware of Tiwari’s appointment.
President David Granger confirmed Thursday that he has “personally rescinded” Tiwari’s appointment, since there is no need for such an adviser.
President Granger during the recording of his weekly television programme – ‘the Public Interest’, said Tiwari’s appointment was not done by government, suggesting that it was a unilateral decision.
While the president did not state if he was aware of the appointment, he clarified that the businessman is not performing any function on behalf of the Administration. “I certainly don’t have any need for him in that role and that’s why it was rescinded,” he told reporters during the interview.
Businessman Brian Tiwari
Meanwhile, Chief Whip of the Parliamentary Opposition, Gail Teixeira lambasted the coalition government over Tiwari and other ministerial advisers’ appointment, which she said, honorific or not, are shrouded in secrecy, a seemingly known trait of the 10-month-old government.
Teixeira told a news conference at her People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Headquarters on Thursday that, even if the post is honorific, there must be full disclosure, including the terms and conditions of those appointed.
“This habit of the government, which appears to be a growing habit of not telling people anything, is a very dangerous pattern emerging and the government needs to correct itself,” she advised.
Teixeira again raised questions over the number of ministerial and presidential advisors appointed since the coalition took office in May 2015, a question which came up during the 2016 Budget Debates, but remains largely unanswered.
“The advisors are not honorific. They come with monies, they have diplomatic passports,” she revealed, adding that if the advisors are paid and what benefits are accorded them are facts kept secret.
Late 2015, the government appointed close to 30 persons in the United States and Canada as Advisers on Diaspora Affairs.
The opposition had pressed for the Terms of Reference (ToR), as well as the names of these advisers, but they were never provided by the administration.