PNCR cannot arbitrarily change Opposition Leader or APNU/AFC List Rep – Ramjattan

– says constitutional rules, procedures must be followed

Leader of the Alliance For Change, Khemraj Ramjattan has argued that the established procedures and rules of law must be followed before the Leader of the Opposition or Representative of the APNU/AFC List of Candidates can be changed.

AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan

The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) – the leading party in the A Partnership for National Unity faction of coalition – wants the newly-elected Leader of the Party, Aubrey Norton, to sit in the National Assembly and hold the post of the country’s Opposition Leader.
That post is currently occupied by APNU’s Joseph Harmon who was appointed by Representative of the List, David Granger – former PNC Leader and former President.

Former PNCR Leader and Head of the APNU/AFC List, David Granger

Ramjattan, who is the Deputy Representative of the List, told Guyana Times on Saturday that these positions cannot be changed willy-nilly and that certain established procedures must be followed
In expanding on his point, the AFC Leader made it clear that he is “not taking a side for Norton or Harmon”.
“Leader of the Opposition is appointed at the first meeting of the Parliament by a process that the Constitution of Guyana provides for…not the constitution of the PNC or the AFC or any Cummingsburg Agreement that we might have,” he explained.
Ramjattan, who is also an attorney, indicated that the only way the Leader of the Opposition post can be changed is if Harmon resigns or the parliamentarians successfully table a motion of no-confidence against him.
“Joe has not indicated that he is resigning,” Ramjattan highlighted.
According to the AFC Leader, “Certain procedures have to be followed before a new Leader of the PNC can become the Opposition Leader. The expression by its National Executive, I respect they would like to see Norton and fine, that is their expressed position on the matter. But it does not follow that once that announcement is made that it necessarily has to be that he becomes Leader of the Opposition, there is a procedure.”
Similarly, he explained that there are procedures as it relates to the Representative of the List.
“The Constitution provides and the Representative of the People Act, when we sent in the List of our Candidates… GECOM demands that you put who is the List Leader and the Deputy List Leader, and we at that point in the 2020 elections… prior to sending in our List of Candidates… we had to also state who is our Leader of the List.”
According to Ramjattan, as far as his knowledge is concerned, that person remains in that position “until the five years is up or if something happens to him and he cannot function”. But even in that situation, Ramjattan outlined that the Deputy Leader of the List then functions as the head of the List.
“You can’t just, midway of the stream… take away that status and give it to someone else,” he contended.
Ramjattan further clarified that “I am not taking a side for Granger,” but is merely stating the “legal position”.
Moreover, the AFC Leader noted that there are certain implications which can arise if a decision is taken to change these constitutional positions every time the Leader of the PNC, or any other coalition party, changes.

Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon

“Assuming the PNC were to have another election in 2024 – every three years they have their National Congress – and there is a new leader and a new leadership in the Executive, does that mean then that Norton (if he succeeds in becoming Opposition Leader) would have to fall out?… No, the Parliament prohibits that and that is what we have to understand… You have to look at all those future moves that you will have to make and that is what I’m warning, that in making these future moves, there can be tremendous differences in the PNC that could lead to its implosion,” Ramjattan cautioned.
Meanwhile, the AFC Leader contended that while his views on the situation come across as if he is endorsing a particular personality, he only wants the right procedures to be followed.
“It gives the impression that I am supporting Joe but I am not endorsing anybody here…I want to endorse the constitutionalism and rule of law which we must all adhere to, notwithstanding whosoever might be the personalities involved,” he expressed.

PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton

Following the announcement by Norton at a presser on Friday that the PNCR Central Executive has decided that he should hold the posts of Opposition Leader as well as Head of the APNU/AFC List, the APNU, which comprises of several parties, in a statement expressed confusion over this position that was taken by “one party through its internal meeting”.
It reminded that the APNU/AFC had collectively agreed in 2020 on who would be the Head and the Deputy Head of the List for the tenure of the 12th Parliament.
Moreover, the APNU said it has no reason to question the abilities of Harmon and Granger in their current posts, while also noting its willingness to work with Norton as the new PNCR Leader.
Harmon, who lost his bid for the PNCR leadership to Norton, has since insisted that he should remain Opposition Leader.