While Government has said that it will no longer hold Cabinet meetings to respect the High Court’s ruling that Cabinet ceases to exist upon the passage of a No-Confidence Motion, it has indicated its formation of a Ministerial Plenary that is chaired by President David Granger and that has all the powers of Cabinet.
This development was shared this morning by Minister of State, Joseph Harmon. He made this known during a “Post-Ministerial Plenary” meeting with the press at the Ministry of the Presidency.
During his opening remarks, Harmon spoke about the Government’s business just as he usually would when post-Cabinet meetings with the press were held. The Minister spoke of the Government’s consideration of Bills, its consent for various diplomatic appointments and even noted the award of contracts by the National Procurement and Tender Administration (NPTAB).
Considering his presentation, Harmon was asked to say if the holding of a Ministerial Plenary is in acceptance of the court’s ruling that Cabinet no-longer exists.
Harmon said that the plenary is an extended Cabinet, meaning all ministers are included, rather than just the senior ministers. He said, “It is noted that there is a judgment of the court that was made with respect to Cabinet and that judgment has been appealed. We do not have a stay on the judgment as yet. Therefore, we have not held Cabinet meetings as such. The plenary however, is chaired by President, David Granger and includes all of the ministers and therefore has all of the powers that the Cabinet can have.”
The media then challenged Harmon to say under what authority or law is this “Ministerial Plenary” meeting being held and what law gives this very plenary the right to “note” contracts.
To this, Harmon said that the provisions of the Constitution under President and Government are what give the plenary the power.
He explained that the Ministers are appointed by the President, and they are essentially his assistants in the execution of his duties. Harmon said that whatever actions are taken in that regard, are taken under the mandate given to Ministers by the President.
The media corps also pressed Harmon to say if Government can respect one aspect of Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George’s ruling on the Cabinet being nonexistent, then why not obey the other part which speaks to holding elections in 90 days. The Minister argued that this issue is a bit more complicated. He noted that the government is currently challenging this judgment in the court while noting that the Constitution provides for the said deadline of 90 days to be extended.
He said it would therefore be premature for the President to call elections when the matter is still engaging the attention of the court.
When asked to say if at the end of the day, the Government is basically running a proxy Cabinet, Harmon said, “You can interpret it how you want to.”