It is appalling to me, especially since I have served two of the former leaders of the People’s National Congress (PNC) politically and professionally, to see the level to which the present Leader of the PNC and of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton, has fallen, by comparison with his predecessors.
I find it not only appalling, but disturbing, since it is critical for any democracy to function in the interest of its people, that there is not a strong and respected Opposition to hold the elected Government of the day accountable both in Parliament and in public, as provided for by the Constitution and the rule of law.
The elected President of our country – and let me repeat: the elected President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali – has now, on two very public occasions, attempted to greet Mr. Norton in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition and of his party, by the universally accepted means of shaking hands, only to be rudely, crudely and foolishly rebuffed.
The first was at a reception of the High Commissioner of the UK to Guyana, and the second was, most recently and even more offensively, at an event celebrating Emancipation Day. Mr Norton’s public display of churlish manners by refusing to shake the President’s hand is to say the least childish and immature; but, much much worse, he and his colleagues who have behaved in this manner towards the President have displayed a complete ignorance of their duties and responsibilities as leaders of the Parliamentary Opposition, to respect and understand the norms of democratic government.
My uncle, Peter d’Aguiar, once declared in Parliament that the job of the Opposition in a democracy is to “oppose, expose and depose” the Government of the day, always respecting the rule of law. True, but Mr Norton’s behaviour is akin to a declaration of defiance, is akin to a refusal to communicate with not merely his political opponent, but with the Head of State and Head of Government. How then does Mr Norton expect the President to be able to meet or consult with him on any matter, whether official or otherwise?
Mr Norton, by his own deliberate action, has effectively shut himself off from consultation by the President, has effectively isolated himself and his party from constitutional recognition. How stupid can he get?