On Thursday, the Government’s Chief Spokesman, State Minister Joe Harmon said the government’s push to finalize and bring into effect a code of conduct for Ministers and public office holders is being stalled by the failure of the Opposition party, the PPP and civil society bodies to give their feedback on the document.
But three hours after that pronouncement was made, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said he has no intention to offer any comments on the document.
Jagdeo told media operatives gathered at Freedom House for a press briefing that the document was “a piece of crap” and he does not intend to treat it with any respect.
Jagdeo said he feels disrespected that the government now wants the opposition’s input on a document that the Opposition played no role in drafting.
“We are not going to treat this piece of crap with any respect. They disrespected us by leaving us out and we would not respond,” the Opposition Leader said.
He said the government is well aware of the opposition’s position and is also questioning the push to amend the Integrity Commission Act.
The government had put forward the amendments as a mechanism to ensure that the code of conduct was properly enforced but Jagdeo is arguing the President already has powers to discipline his Ministers.
He believes the move is a smoke screen for the government to also dictate over the other Members of Parliament.
Jagdeo said the amendments will result in the arrogation of more powers to the executive without improving the accountability and transparency of the Integrity Commission.
The Opposition Leader was written directly by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and provided members of the media with a copy of the letter in which the PM is seeking to have the Integrity Commission law amended.
One of the proposed amendments is that the authority for ensuring the observance of the provisions of the code will rest with the President in the case of Vice Presidents or Ministers and with the Minister of State in the case of other persons in public life.
Jagdeo is opposed to supporting the amendment that gives the President authority to discipline public office holders.
In addition, he also opposed the Minister of State being granted authority to remove a person from office if they are found in breach of the code.
“They are all subjects of the Act. Who will discipline them when they misbehave? And what is this thing that Harmon will have powers to dismiss Members of Parliament,” Jagdeo questioned.
He claimed that the government was arrogating more powers to execute without improving accountability and transparency of the Act.
The government has dismissed the concerns of the Opposition Leader and has made it clear that it wants to bring more transparency and accountability to public office. (Kurt Campbell)