A big kerfuffle has erupted over Minister of State Joseph Harmon’s appointment of businessman Brian Tiwari as a “Ministerial Advisor on Business”. While the appointment was made on January 19, it came to light in a report in a print medium while Mr Tiwari accompanied Minister Harmon on a trip to China on government business. Many observers are confused as to the actual reason for the contretemps since appointment of “advisers” had become quite a feature of this Administration.
For instance, quite early after taking office President David Granger appointed Brigadier (rtd) Edward Collins as Presidential Advisor on National Security even though he had a Minister of National Security, Vice President Khemraj Ramjattan, a Minister in the Ministry of National Security, Winston Felix and the advisory National Defence Board , of which Joseph Harmon is Secretary.
He also appointed Rear Admiral (rtd) Gary Best as Presidential Advisor on the Environment, even though he has a Minister of Environment Raphael Trotman, who already operates out of the Ministry of the Presidency.
But while it may be argued that the President ought to have some leeway in these matters so as to obtain non-institutional advise, Minister of Education Dr Rupert Roopnarine, who has a junior Minister Nicolette Henry, appointed Former Chairman of the PNC Vincent Alexander as his “Advisor”. More akin to the instant case under scrutiny, last year, while on a visit to Canada Vice Presidents Moses Nagamootoo and Khemraj Ramjattan, appointed four executives of the overseas AFC groups as “Advisors on Diaspora Affairs”.
One would have expected that “Diaspora Affairs” be located within the portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – as it was under the PPP government – and approved by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. However Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge was never consulted and up to this point has never been asked to meet the “Advisers”.
At the time the appointment was made in Toronto, Canada, there was also a meeting convened with “investors” after which “massive” investments were promised. When Mr Greenidge was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, President Granger made special mention of Mr Greenidge’s background in economic matters and charged him with securing foreign investment for Guyana.
We mention these appointments because even though Minister Harmon described the appointment as an “honorific” which was common in the administration, President Granger rescinded the appointment because he claims Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin had not requested an adviser. But the same could be said of Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and the four “diaspora advisers” foisted on him by PM Moses Nagamootoo and Minister of National Security Khemraj Ramjattan.
Mr Harmon could also point out his portfolio includes dealing with business matters – such as the very reason for his trip to China – and needed an advisor himself in an area where the government clearly needs whatever help it can muster. Business is not conducted in a vacuum and all prudent negotiators need individuals who are conversant with local idiosyncrasies. No one can deny Mr Tiwari credentials in this area and Minister Harmon was being very pragmatic in attempting to further Guyana’s business interests.
We should therefore seek the answer for the brouhaha elsewhere and it is not too difficult to find. The Kaieteur News, which was the print media that released details of the appointment of Mr Tiwari, has been engaged in a long running feud with the latter businessman. Their manufactured outrage is simply the latest character smear. President Granger unfortunately threw out the baby with the bathwater.