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…Opposition Leaders says invitation to sit on state boards, committees trickling in
…but official letters to the President not yet acknowledged
By Svetlana Marshall
Warning that political gridlock would not augur well for the development of Guyana, Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon said it has been months since he has written President Irfaan Ali on matters of national importance but there has been no official response from the Office of the President.
“I believe our country must go forward, and gridlock will not produce the kind of atmosphere for our country to develop. I have written him formally [and] in spite of all of his statements in the public spaces, his office has not had the decency of acknowledging [my letters],” the Opposition Leader said in an exclusive interview with Village Voice News on Saturday.
On September 24, 2020, the Opposition Leader wrote the President, requesting copies of all agreements signed during the visit by the then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Guyana, however, almost five months after, there has been no official response.
“This is, of course, a matter of national importance and accordingly I shall be grateful if, at your earliest convenience, you would be so kind as to furnish me with all agreements, oral or written which were concluded between the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and the United States of America after August 2, 2020,” a section of the letter read.
Last December, when asked whether he was prepared to sit down with the Opposition Leader in the nation’s interest and as mandated by the Constitution, President Ali shunned the question. Instead, he asked the press whether the Opposition Leader has shifted his position.
“Mr. Harmon has not changed his position…,’ President Ali said. He has repeatedly indicated that his Administration will not meet with the Leader of the Opposition until he accepts that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is legitimate.
The Opposition Leader said the President’s posture, it would appear, remains the same though the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) – the main opposition in the National Assembly – has considered the National Budget and participated in debates on motions and bills brought by the Government.
“So if he wants to hold on to this narrow, shaky, flimsy excuse then he can continue to do so, but as far as I am concerned I believe that the interest of the people of Guyana is more important than platitudes,” Harmon said.
He said whether the President acknowledges him as Leader of the Opposition, it would not change the fact that currently he is the Opposition Leader.
The Constitution of Guyana specifically requires that there be consultation with the Leader of the Opposition by the President in the appointment of a number of constitutional office holders, and according to Harmon, there is no precondition attached.
Article 127 of the Constitution requires that agreements be reached between the President and the Opposition Leader for the appointment of Chancellor and Chief justice while Article 191 mandates that the ombudsman be appointed by the President based on consultation with the Opposition Leader.
Articles 198, 200, 207, 210, 212 and 161 outline similar requirements for the appointment of members of the Judicial Service Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Teaching Service Commission, the Police Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission.
Shortly after the PPP/C took Office in August, 2020, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Government, Gail Teixeira had said that the Opposition would be blocked from nominating persons to sit on State Boards and Commissions until this and other pre-conditions are met.
However, Harmon said, in recent times, the Office of Opposition Leader has received official invitations from government ministries and agencies, inviting Opposition to take up seats on state boards and committees.
He said the Office of the Leader of the Opposition has received a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd, inviting the Opposition to nominate a representative to sit on the ministerial advisory committee on border, while another Letter of Invite was received just last week from the Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, requesting a nominee to sit on the National Commission on Law Enforcement.
“The invitations are now trickling in but that is not sufficient to deal with the substantive issue of consultation,” the Opposition Leader said.
Harmon said just last week, he would have penned letters to Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd and India’s External Relations Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar objecting to the PPP/C Government’s proposed appointment of Charrandass Persaud as High Commissioner to India.
“We have an objection to Mr Charrandass Persaud being the diplomatic representative for Guyana as a High Commissioner to India… and we will continue to make that objection known,” Harmon said.
Further, he said there is the issue of increased acts of aggression by Venezuela and the purported attempt to recognise Taiwan “through the backdoor” that require full attention by the leaders of the country.
“It would appear to us that our foreign policy is being hijacked by forces that are outside of Guyana and that our national interests are at shaky state that we have become more vulnerable because of the ineptitude of this current regime in dealing with matters of a national nature,” the Opposition Leader said.