When President Granger at a luncheon hosted at State House on the occasion of his 72nd birthday declared: “You are family … you are my second family” he knew exactly what he wanted to telegraph to his cabinet colleagues. What’s in the family stays in the family; they’re the ties that bind. The President obviously had in mind all the issues he has had to deal with as a result of multiple bungles by his ministers and how he was obliged to come out in their defence as head of the family.
Beginning with Minister Harmon’s much criticized statement about making no apologies for the huge increase in ministerial salaries; the unlawful dispatching of letters signed by Minister Broomes and Lawrence issuing instructions to constitutional bodies; the China junket by Minister Harmon in the company of a person there in a private capacity; the appointment of unsuitable persons as ministerial advisors by Minis-ter Harmon; the drug bond scandal involving Minister Norton; fast tracking by Minister Lawrence of the procurement of drugs worth hundreds of millions of dollars outside the normal procurement process; the untold number of imbroglios at the centre of which stood the hapless Attorney General and Minister of Justice; the millions spent on the D’Urban Park white elephant; the rental of a house costing half a million dollars for Minister Broomes way beyond the cap for junior ministers of government; and the more recent case of dereliction of duty by Minister Ramjattan, resulting in the total destruction of the Georgetown Prisons.
All of these incidents, taken together or separately, must have been a source of great pain and embarrassment to the President and his administration just two years into his five year term in office. President Granger is very much aware of the praxis of collective responsibility in so far as his own actions and those of his cabinet are concerned.
Therefore, any act by a minister that proves injurious to his administration is an injury to all.
Thus in the face of an already badly damaged government it becomes necessary to introduce the concept of the family and the need for the family to stick it out together.
The President is also aware of the festering internal differences that have arisen with the passage of time within the family of the partnership, the most recent being the souring of relations with the WPA following the sudden removal of Dr Rupert Roopnaraine from the Ministry of Education. Dr Roopnaraine’s recent letter of resignation from the cabinet has complicated the situation further. And President Granger’s response makes it appear as if Dr Roopnaraine is a prisoner of the coalition administration.
There is also the underlying grievance with the AFC concerning the overreach of the powers held by Minister Harmon who holds the coveted positions of Minister of State, Secretary to the Cabinet, Secretary to the Defence Board and Head of the Presidential Secretariat.
Prime Minister Nagamootoo’s constant harping on constitutional reform to humble the powers of the president as well as the de-gutting of Minister Ramjattan’s portfolio responsibilities are irritants that just won’t go away. These irritants surface from time to time, and President Granger is called upon to resolve them as the quarrels within the family become increasingly acrimonious with every passing day.
The recent ‘don’t blame Ramjattan’ statement by President Granger in defence of his Public Security Minister following the riotous destruction of the Georgetown Prisons is not going down well with some members within the coalition. The extremist elements in the APNU are of the view that the President must act decisively by shifting Mr Ramjattan to another ministry. A case has been made out to the effect that Ramjattan, in a relatively short period of time has done more harm than good to the image of the coalition administration.
It has been suggested that Minister Ramjattan be shifted either to the Ministry of Agriculture or The AG’s Chamber. It is further suggested that Basil Williams should be shifted to the Ministry of Public Security since Williams’ like Ramjattan’s performance and delivery of public service has been far from stellar. On the other hand, there are the some in the coalition who are of the view that having just jettisoned the WPA from its ministerial portfolio within cabinet, it would be inviting greater instability within the coalition were the President to act in accordance with the wishes of the more extremist elements in the coalition.
Thus the President’s kitchen cabinet comprising the more moderate and realistic elements in the coalition have recommended that there be a period of marking time in respect of any reshuffling involving Mr Ramjattan and others, and that they should await the opportunity when the circumstances allow for a more comprehensive shifting around of cabinet portfolios.
In the meanwhile, Mr Ramjattan is perceived by his cabinet colleagues as an untouchable having regard to the commitments laid down in the Cummingsburg Accord in respect of the distribution of ministerial portfolios among the parties forming the coalition administration.
Coalition watchers are of the view that it would attract less controversy should the AFC itself were to recall Mr Ramjattan and replace him with one of their own. They opine that to remove him now would further undermine the tenuous foundation of the coalition administration and create greater animosity among its members.
Clement J Rohee