Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, has broken his silence on the reported conflict between himself and President Bharrat Jagdeo. He said that, as things stand, he could be out of his ministry by January.
During an interview with some members of the media yesterday, Minister Jeffrey said that he was not ‘sacked’ by President Bharrat Jagdeo. Rather, it was a mutual agreement between himself and President Jagdeo that would see him demitting office.
Dr. Jeffrey noted that the matter has been ongoing for the past seven months, when he first signalled his readiness to cease being a member of the Cabinet.
He explained that he is prepared to leave at anytime, and it is likely that there will be a new Foreign Trade Minister by January of 2009.
“This here is the outcome of what I was saying. It is something that I was trying to get going for a considerable period of time,” Dr. Jeffrey told members of the media.
The decision to leave the Cabinet, he said, has to do with the fact that he and the President shared different views on the recently-signed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
“It is true; there were some disagreements on how we view the matter. It did cause some problems, because my position as a Cabinet Minister is to be an adviser to the President.
I must tell the President my mind, and regardless of what he may think, he does not have to take the advice, but I advise him and tell him what I think,” Minister Jeffrey said.
Dr. Jeffrey noted that President Jagdeo had told him that if he could not support the Government’s take on the EPA, then he should leave the Cabinet.
He and the President had agreed that if he intended to criticise the Government’s position on the EPA publicly, then he should leave the Cabinet. This, Jeffrey said, is an acceptable position anywhere.
“You can’t be in a government and then go out there criticising the government. The President said if you are going to criticise the Government publicly, then you will have to leave the Government. I said to him on that occasion, ‘I know that, I have no intention of doing that.’ Anytime, I think I have to do that, I will have to leave.”
He added that it would have been immoral of him to give his support to something with which he is not in agreement; and, as such, he chose this road to get out of it.
“I think it was a sensible move. That was in a sense a saving grace for me, because I would have either been in a moral dilemma or I would have had to resign.”
Contrary to what was reported in Friday’s edition of this newspaper, Dr. Jeffrey said, there was never any quarrel between himself and the President at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
Minister Jeffrey said that he was not even present at Cabinet, since he was taken up with other issues. He explained that he did have a discussion with President Jagdeo on Wednesday, where the fact was laid on the table that he was pushing to leave the Cabinet, and had been doing so for some time now.
Dr. Jeffrey explained that the President told him that, when he leaves the Cabinet, it must be by mutual consent. Following his meeting with President Jagdeo, he said, he told the Head of State that he needed time to think about it, and that was when he consulted with his family and arrived at the decision that he is ready to resign from the Cabinet.
“The President has not asked me to resign, but a mutual agreement is being worked out.
For personal reasons, I don’t want to go far, and I think it’s a good shot and it’s an opportunity to do something else. There is no official position as yet.”
He admitted that, after he decided to resign, he called the Public Buildings on Thursday and discussed his entitlements.
According to Dr. Jeffrey, he has identified three options that he would like to move into, including the diplomatic option, but he would prefer to remain in Guyana.
He explained that on many occasions when he would vent his concerns about leaving the Cabinet to Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, he was told that the jobs were not of any sufficient stature.
According to Dr. Jeffrey, with the COTED meeting coming up, he drew President Jagdeo’s attention to the fact that there could be discussions on the EPA, and that it would be fitting for the Government to find someone else to represent it at the meeting, as well as in new negotiations with Canada.
From now until President Jagdeo decides, Dr. Jeffrey will still be the Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation.
When contacted by the media on Thursday for a comment on the matter, President Jagdeo said that, as far as he was aware, Dr Jeffrey remains in his office as minister, and that he, President Jagdeo, would be the person to determine whether Dr Jeffrey remains a minister.
He was reportedly responding to a question about whether Dr Jeffrey had been sent home. Dr Jeffrey was appointed a minister in 1992, as a member of the Civic component of the Government, after Dr Cheddi Jagan had won the elections. He was appointed Minister of Labour.
He then served as Minister of Education, having replaced another member of the Civic component of the Government, Dr Dale Bisnauth.
In the wake of the 2006 elections, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Trade and International Co-operation, after Minister Clement Rohee was appointed Minister of Home Affairs.