President will meet with new Opposition Leader – VP Jagdeo

President Dr Irfaan Ali will foster engagement with whoever becomes the new Opposition Leader to address and bring closure to a slew of constitutional issues which require consultation.
With Joseph Harmon stepping down as Opposition Leader, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) is yet to officially select his replacement.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo at a press conference on Thursday pointed out that a number of Commissions are yet to be reinstated and they require consultations by President Ali and Opposition Leader. The Government is aiming to conclude these matters by the end of this month.
“There are several Commission’s now that we anticipate before the end of February that the President will meet with the Leader of the Opposition if by then there is a new Leader of the Opposition. We are hoping that the matter will be resolved shortly…We anticipate that all of the Commissions would be fully operational by the end of February, because the consultation with the Opposition Leader will take place,” the Vice President told media operatives.
This week, Nicolette Henry resigned as an Opposition parliamentarian – a move that paves the way for People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Leader Aubrey Norton to take up a seat in the National Assembly. With a vacant seat now on the Opposition side of the National Assembly, it is anticipated that Norton would be sworn in as a Member of Parliament (MP) and take up the role as soon as possible.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo

According to Article 156 (3) (c) of the Constitution, the Head of the Party’s List of Representatives – David Granger – will now have meaningful consultations for the appointment of Norton to Parliament.
Norton had revealed last month that the Central Executive of the PNCR, the leading party in the coalition Opposition, wants him to take up the role that was previously held by Harmon.
Despite refusing to step down initially, Harmon last week resigned as Opposition Leader, but still remains an Opposition MP.
Among the constitutional bodies scheduled for reinstation are the Police Service Commission, Public Service Commission, Teaching Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission, and the Integrity Commission.
With Government coming under some heat in relation to the prolonged delay, Jagdeo clarified that Ali was open to consultations with Harmon, but on the basis that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration is accepted as a legitimately-elected Government.

PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton

“I think the President was misquoted as saying he did not want to meet the Leader of the Opposition. But when the question was posed to him about engagements with the Opposition, and he said until there is an acknowledgment that this is a legitimately-elected government, there is no room for that engagement to move forward. However, he made it very clear that in his constitutional role, [he] was mandated by the Constitution to have to consult with the Leader of the Opposition, he was going to discharge his responsibility,” Jagdeo underscored.
For the Police Service Commission, four names have been approved by the Parliamentary Committee of Appointments and it was on the order paper for approval.
On the Integrity Commission, the VP outlined that while this entity was not currently in place, the law and the secretariat were and that warranted public office holders to make their declarations.
“There is an obligation for members to submit. We have submitted notwithstanding there is no commission…We have made it clear that they have to submit their statements to the Integrity Commission. There is a secretariat. You get a receipt for your submission, even in the absence of the Commission. What APNU did, they not only did not have the Commission in place for three years, but they refused to take the submissions.”
As he continued on policy moves, Jagdeo reminded that the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Constitutional Reform would meet again on March 8, setting up the basis for consultations.
He asserted, “Consistent with the pledge of our manifesto, this year, we put in place $125 million in the budget for them to start to work on what we promised in our manifesto – consultations across the country for constitutional reform.”
The former Head of State opined that the ‘farcical approach’ by APNU/AFC in the area of constitutional reform led the PPP to define in its manifesto, the model to be used in this process, with five persons from Government, five from the Opposition, and 10 from civil society to lead the process and make recommendations to the National Assembly.