Govt peddling misleading information to the public – Jagdeo

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…says in relation to the Integrity Commission Act amendment

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has indicated that  Ministers from the incumbent Administration have been peddling misleading information to the general public for weeks, with regards to the proposed amendments to the Integrity Commission Act.
“All the lies we have heard over the past two weeks, leads us to think that public relations matter more than reality…. the purpose (of the changes to the Integrity Commission Act) is not to strengthen accountability, but to undermine it,” Jagdeo said to media operatives during a conference today.
He expressed concern once again with regards to the power that the proposed amendments would put in the hands of the President and the Minister of State.
“(This) gives the President Executive Authority to go after people…he has authority that he never had. In the past, he had no Executive Authority,” Jagdeo said while highlighting that for the amendment to give State Minister Joseph Harmon the power to dismiss Members of Parliament (MP’s) makes it illegal.
 

The Opposition Leader noted that no member of the Peoples Progressive Party was consulted on the matter, to date.

The proposed amendment, to the Integrity Commission Act, which was circulated by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, puts the enforcement powers in the hands of the President, David Granger where Government Ministers are in breach and in the hands of the Minister of State, Harmon in cases of other persons in public life, including elected MP’s.

Jagdeo, had said that such a move would not only be dangerous but outright unconstitutional.

“So, just imagine, Harmon will now decide the fate of Members of Parliament, because persons in public life may be removed from office when s/he contravenes any of the provisions in this code,” he surmised, noting that it would be unconstitutional for a sitting minister to be empowered to remove an elected official in the National Assembly.

He argued, too, that both the President and Harmon were subject to the Integrity Commission Act and if they were responsible for enforcing provisions under it, then there would be a major conflict of interest.

“So, what they are doing now, moving it (power) from an independent body that the Executive should have no control over, because members of the Executive, including the President, have to submit their statements to this body and be overseen by this body and [it can] initiate prosecutorial actions against the President for breach.

They are seeking now to amend that Act under the Code of Conduct, which is not just for Ministers but MPs and put the enforcement power, the ability to remove people from public life in the hands of the President and Minister of State,” he explained.

In this regard, Jagdeo said the parliamentary Opposition would reject the proposed amendment to the Integrity Commission Act.

“We will oppose this amendment, because this amendment is another tool to seem as though they are doing something about a Code of Conduct for Ministers, to seem as though they are pursuing transparent, accountable lives, but, on the other hand, they are setting the basis for further witch-hunt and to come after PPP members,” he had stated.

Jagdeo also reminded that these same Ministers refused to support a motion to have all parliamentarians make certain submissions to the Integrity Commission.

He reminded too that Government has already disbanded the Commission by sending home staff and taking possession of documents that belong with the constitutional body.

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