Home News Govt signs off on more State Boards
…nearly 2 months after no-confidence resolution’s passage
With the countdown to constitutionally due elections approaching, the coalition Government is giving the go-ahead for several more State Boards to function. However, the legality of such moves could be the subject of much contention since acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, has declared that the Cabinet was effectively resigned with the passage of the no-confidence resolution on December 21, 2018.
According to Saturday’s Official Gazette, dated February 16, 2019, State Minister Joseph Harmon signed off on the approvals for five Boards on February 7, 2019. These approvals have come after Justice George’s ruling as opposed to previous approvals which were signed off days before the court’s determination.
However, in this regard, the Government notice observed that it was not Cabinet that considered the nominees but the ‘Ministerial Plenary’, – a body which is meeting and has the powers of Cabinet would but is not actually Cabinet as Minister Harmon claimed late last week. Among the constitutional Bodies that recently garnered approval was the Guyana Prison Service Training Board which came into operation from February 1, 2019, for one year and it is meant to be chaired by Murray Greenidge. The Guyana Prison Service Recruitment Board was also given one-year life and will include Chairman Trevor Williams and acting Prisons Director Gladwin Samuels as one of its members.
Another Body approved was the Guyana Fire Service Recruitment and Training Board to be chaired by Richard Maughn and includes members such as Randolph Alfred and Deborah Thomas. The 10-member Guyana Prison Service Agriculture Development Board was also given life while Firearms Licensing Board was similarly approved with Bert Sukhai as Chairman, Senior Government Psychiatrist, Dr Bhiro Harry and Attorney Kim Kyte-John included as members.
These Board approvals come against Government’s business as usual stance premised on the argument that the status quo should be preserved as the no-confidence resolution matters are before the court. It was earlier this month that this newspaper reported on several other Boards that were similarly given life post-December 21, 2018. When the January 31, 2019, court ruling was made, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Executive and former Attorney General under its tenure, Anil Nandlall, had told members of the media that the Party is likely to address the measures implemented by Cabinet after December 21, 2018, to see if those actions are illegal.
“There is no Cabinet in force in Guyana currently and that is very important…if they are illegal, those are issues we will have to take into account and address,” Nandlall had declared.
The previous State Boards that Government sought to give official approval in late January included the 15-member National Standards Council (January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019); the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) to be headed by Donald Sinclair (effective February 1, 2019 to January 31, 2020); the VAT Appeal Tribunal (June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2019) and the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CACC) (February 1, 2019 to January 31, 2019).
Cabinet had also approved Governor Gobind Ganga as Chairman and Leslie Glenn as Deputy Chairman of the Bank of Guyana’s Board.
In January, Justice George declared that the 33-32 majority meant the motion was carried. She observed that the President and the Ministers cannot remain in Government after three months which expires in March. This, she said, is in keeping with Articles 106 (6) and 106 (7). Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence.”
Meanwhile, 106 (7) goes on to state that, “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election.” What this says is that Government will remain in office until the next President is swor“n in but not the Cabinet which advises the President.