Editorial by: Dennis E. Adonis
EDITORIAL: – Throughout the democratic world, every country either constitutionally or unceremoniously appoints a Government official through which the arm of the President’s authority is extended.
In the United States, the President appoints his cabinet Secretaries (Ministers) with unique portfolios, but technically gives the Secretary of State more supervisory powers over all other members of the cabinet.
And even before a US general election, great insight and interest have always been focused on who will be the next Secretary of State. This has been so because of the natural governance powers that automatically comes with that political office in the United States, and by extension, other countries in the world.
History would recall that when Barrack Obama had won the 2008 US Presidential elections, amid a promise to offer Hillary Rodham Clinton a job in his cabinet, her supporters demanded the position of Secretary of State.
They did not wish for any of the other influential portfolios such as the Secretary of Defense, Homeland Security, or Commerce.
That is because even though there are a cabinet of Secretaries (Ministers), the Secretary of State is always handed powers that are technically greater than the vice president, and seconded only to the President himself.
As a matter of fact, the Secretary of State is not accountable to the cabinet, but only to the President of the United States, and also has oversight over every other cabinet member who can be called upon at any time to account for their actions.
Knowing this, I am sure that even some basic grade six researching will also establish the fact that, of all cabinet members (Secretaries) of the US Government, the Secretary of State is the first cabinet member that can be sworn in as President if the President dies, and the Vice president and House speakers cannot hold that office.
All of the other cabinet ministers are listed at the bottom of that order, and thus does not enjoy the authority and cabinet rank of the Secretary of State.
Over in the United Kingdom, the situation is the same.
The British Prime Minister appoints his cabinet of Secretaries, but that country’s policy give one of those Ministers (mostly the Chancellor) sweeping powers above the other Ministers, and make that Minister accountable to the Prime Minister only.
Of course there is nothing in British law that says that that has to be the case. But political norms have demanded that such a policy remain for the good of governance for several decades. As such every leader that comes into power would firstly designate another Minister in the cabinet to hold supervisory powers over all of the others.
He or she or even the opposition has never sought to restrain such a designated minister from exercising the authority that comes with his assignment, or see his intervention in another ministry as interference in another office.
After all, his appointment or designation by the PM automatically grants him the unwritten authority to intervene where necessary.
Any dunce can further research and learn that the UK Prime Minister, as a governance norm, would basically decide which Minister shall have oversight over all of the other Ministers of the Government.
Hence, this policy is very well enforced in our mother country, whose Westminster governance patterns we have been embracing ever since independence.
If you go across to Russia, the current designated Minister of State Sergey Lavrov who also serves as the Foreign Minister holds more power than the Prime Minister, with sweeping authority over all of the other cabinet ministers. This has been so because Vladimir Putin appointed him as Minister of State and foreign minister; – a person who traditionally holds the authority as the de facto Secretary of State.
To further drive home my point I can go on to list at least 114 other countries where the designated or de facto Minister of State (upon appointment by the President) holds sweeping powers and supervision over the other ministers of government in those countries cabinet.
But the credibility of my point does not require that I waste anymore of my time to prove a fact that every grade six child probably knows.
So, skipping forward to the matter at hand; – from the moment Joseph Harmon was appointed a Minister of State in Guyana (with less than ten percent of the powers of his counterparts in the US and the UK), and can supposedly no longer yield to the desires and ulterior motives of a few disenchanted people, he subsequently evolved into a sustained target for a section of the local media.
The sustained targeting and objectives of the local media bashing was so obvious that an Editor from the UK Guardian, a columnist at Reuters, and an assistant editor at the New York Times (with responsibility for Caribbean matters) drew this to my attention at different times via our usually private email exchanges.
In the end, they all considered the sustained matters being raised by the local press as nothing more than sensational media junk, in as much that they refused to republish any part of it.
After all, the primary goal of Mr. Harmon’s media bashing can be attributed to the probable objective (of a circle) to force him into resignation.
And when that did not worked, a continued drive is seemingly being made supposedly by a handful of the same detractors to curtail his ministerial powers.
While the attacks were noticeably driven by three known persons, the Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan seem to have (inadvertently) added salt to the wound by stepping outside of his portfolio to suggest via a local media outlet that Joseph Harmon was wrong to be on a jet owned by Bai Shan Lin.
The public was hard-pressed to understand his unwarranted interjection at that time since no other member of the government had publicly extended any criticisms as it relates to that matter, especially since the President had already considered the matter closed.
While Ramjattan’s published comments could have had been taken in the wrong context, his sincerity to united governance has since been drafted into question by APNU supporters, as his stepping out of line would have been done to the overall detriment of the reputation of the ruling coalition, and by extension; Mr. Joseph Harmon himself.
But that’ an entirely different story that will probably have to be address at another time.
Now, reverting to the renewed drive to shackle the rightful powers of the Minister of State, common sense will suggest that Mr. Harmon is functioning to either the political or commercial detriment of a handful of people, or both; in as much that his removal or relieving of his granted powers is an ultimate necessity.
And to some extent, if you are to believe the claims that have been surfacing in a certain section of the Guyanese media, the architects of Joseph Harmon’s unwarranted demise are probably getting their way.
And if Joseph Harmon himself, and more so, President David Granger is yielding to this category of political gaming, they will have a very deep price to pay in the end.
But if the dignity of the President’ office and his governance decisions are to be respected, then the first thing that he needs to do is to let the Minister of State function with the level of authority and powers that such an office rightly deserves.
Otherwise, the president would have to content with the waiting calamities of Ministerial delinquency since it will be practically impossible for him to personally have oversight over all of his ministers; knowing that there is no policy in any part of the world that has condoned the handing down of the President’s oversight powers to the Prime Minister.
The norm moreover, is for this task to be handed to another minister, just as a fellow student in a school is appointed as a class monitor for his/ her peers.
So in closing, I would sincerely urge the President and the Minister of State to bring an end to this political eye-pass; and not let the self centred interest of a few persons be accepted as the policy which dictates the decisions of the President’s office.
After all, if the authorities that are granted to the Minister of State have worked well for the United States and over a hundred other countries, only a downright fool will maintain that it can’t work for us.