President reassigns four ministers

-Sarabo-Halley, Rakjumar to join Cabinet

President David Granger yesterday named two new members of Cabinet and reassigned four others following the resignation of those Ministers who hold dual citizenship.

In an address to the Nation, Granger explained that in accordance with a ruling by the High Court which was upheld by the Appeal Court he has accepted the resignations of Carl Greenidge, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dominic Gaskin, Minister of Business; Joseph Harmon, Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency and Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, Minister of the Public Service in the Ministry of the Presidency.

Acknowledging that these resignations which took effect yesterday, April 25, 2019 have created vacancies in both the Cabinet and the National Assembly, Granger announced the transfer of some junior ministers.

Specifically Dawn Hastings-Williams has been appointed Minister of State; Annette Ferguson as Minister in the Ministry of Communities, with responsibility for Housing; Simona Broomes is now the Minister in the Minis-try of the Presidency with responsibility for Youth Affairs; and Valerie Adams-Yearwood is Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture with responsibility for Rural Affairs.

Ferguson previously served as Junior Public Infrastructure Minister; Broomes as Junior Natural Resources Minister and Adams-Yearwood as Junior Communities Minister with responsibility for Housing.

Also announced was the appointment of two new ministers: Hemraj Rajkumar, the Region Two representative in the National Assembly will hold the portfolio of Minister of Business while Tabitha Sarabo-Halley will take Roopnaraine’s post as Minister of the Public Service in the Ministry of the Presidency. Rajkumar is from the AFC and Sarabo-Halley is from the WPA, thereby preserving the coalition balance as Gaskin represented the AFC and Roopnaraine the WPA.

There was no mention in the address as to who will administer the crucial portfolio of Foreign Affairs. Stabroek News reached out to Ministry of the Presidency Communications Director, Mark Archer on the issue and was told that President Granger will address the Foreign Affairs portfolio in a later announcement which is likely to be made before the end of this week.

According to Article 155 (1) (a) of the Constitution, “No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who is, by virtue of his or her own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”

In keeping with this provision Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire in the case of Compton Reid v. Speaker of the National Assembly et al, declared, on 31st January 2019, that it was unconstitutional for a person holding dual citizenship to be elected as a Member of Parliament. This ruling was affirmed by a majority decision of the Court of Appeal on 22nd March 2019.

Stating that he has “a duty to ensure that the Government acts in accordance with the Constitution at all times”, Granger stressed that the new portfolios have been assigned in accordance with the Courts’ rulings.

 “Your government is committed to upholding the Constitution unreservedly,” the president said as he thanked the former ministers for their stewardship as members of his Cabinet and of the National Assembly since May 2015.

 “Their sterling public service has been to our nation’s benefit,” he noted.

The President’s announcement means that for the first time since the APNU+AFC government entered office in May 2015, Harmon, who held the powerful position of Minister of State, Greenidge,  Gaskin and Roopnaraine will not be present in parliament when it meets today.

The removal of the dual citizen ministers was a result of Reid’s failed case to overturn the December 21 motion of no-confidence on the grounds that the APNU+AFC MP who broke ranks, Charrandass Persaud, was a dual citizen.

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