Constitutional appointments: President, Opposition Leader agree to consult in keeping with laws
Guyana’s President, Dr Irfaan Ali on Friday met with Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton for the first time to have preliminary discussions on the appointments of members to the various constitutional agencies and, now the two officials are likely to meet again next week.
The meeting took place at the Office of the President (OP), Shiv Chanderpaul Drive, Georgetown. President Ali was joined by Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, while Norton was accompanied by APNU/AFC Opposition Member of Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Roysdale Forde.
In a joint statement issued during their engagement Friday afternoon, it was noted that Norton was invited to in-person consultations with the Head of State on the appointments to be made at the Integrity Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, Police Service Commission and Teaching Service Commission.
According to the Constitution of Guyana, members of these Commissions shall be appointed by the President “…acting after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition”.
However, prior to the engagement, the Opposition Leader had requested additional information on the names under consideration but was asked, by Governance and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira, to specify the details being requested.
“At the meeting held [on Friday], the Leader of the Opposition clarified that the information that is being requested are the Curriculum Vitae (CVs) of the persons under consideration and the President agreed to make those CVs available within two days,” the joint missive outlined.
Meanwhile, the two leaders further agreed that the consultations will be guided by the provisions of Constitution of Guyana. They also committed to resume the in-person consultations sometime within the coming week.
Following the nearly three-hour-long meeting, Norton told reporters outside the Office of the President that the way is now paved for the mutually-agreed continuation of engagements between himself and President Ali in keeping with the Constitution.
He also confirmed that a commitment was made to provide him the CVs of persons being nominated to these critical agencies.
“Basically, we agreed to engage, and we engaged, and we have now agreed that documents would be provided to us in keeping with the Constitution and we will do an assessment, and then engage again. That is basically it,” the Opposition Leader stated.
Asked about the importance of CVs, Norton explained that will allow him to better participate in “meaningful consultation” on the appointments in accordance with the laws.
“When I see the CVs, I’ll tell you why they’re important. Because you need to know about people… I’m saying to you, first of all, we need CVs. The whole process of ‘meaningful consultation’ has been defined in law. In fact, in the second paragraph, it says clearly that you need time to assess, et cetera; so, the CVs are needed, and once we get the CVs, we will do what we have to do,” he stated.
Only last month, the National Assembly approved the nomination of four individuals to be appointed members of the Police Service Commission, which is responsible for appointing and disciplining Police ranks who are above the rank of Inspector. These nominees include: businessman Ernesto Choo-a-Fat; businessman, Attorney-at-Law Lloyd Mark Conway; businessman Hakeem Mohamed, and Pastor Patrick Findlay. Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader, who was only appointed to the post last month after being sworn-in as a Member of Parliament, further told reporters when asked if he was satisfied with Friday’s meeting, that the issue is not about satisfaction but rather following the provisions of the Guyana Constitution.
“All I want to see is everything occur in keeping with law, in keeping with the Constitution. I think we’ve been able to make this point and in moving forward, we will operate in keeping with the Constitution and what meaningful consultation means,” he said.
This is the first meeting between President Ali and the APNU/AFC Opposition since his assumption to office in August 2020 – following the protracted and controversial March 2, 2020 elections that saw attempts to deny the will of the Guyanese people.
President Ali last month told reporters that he will soon be inviting the Opposition Leader to discuss matters that the Constitution mandates both leaders to consult on including critical appointments of the service commissions as well as top judicial posts, that is, the Chancellor and Chief Justice.
But Norton, who is the Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) – the leading party in the APNU/AFC coalition Opposition – had contended that he wants to have broad consultations with the Head of State on other issues such as good governance.
The Opposition Leader, however, did not respond to questions about whether the talks of Friday went beyond constitutional appointments.
After securing a landslide victory at that PNCR’s internal Congress in December 2021, Norton was mandated by the party’s Central Executive Committee to take up several key posts including Opposition Leader, which was previously held by Joseph Harmon.
Harmon had lost his bid for the PNCR leadership position to Norton and was not re-elected to the party’s Central Executive – the highest decision-making body of that party – nor co-opted.
Norton was also asked to take over the chairmanship of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) faction of the coalition Opposition – a post that was held by former PNCR Leader and President of Guyana, David Granger.
It was further reported that Norton also had a mandate from the PNC Executive Committee to take up the position of Representative of the List of Candidates, which is also being held by Granger. (G8)