Vacant parliamentary seats: Portfolio shake-ups for APNU/AFC MPs – Norton
…as GECOM gets green light to extract names from APNU/AFC list
While the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has been given the green light to extract names from the list of candidates to fill the Opposition vacancies in the National Assembly, People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) Leader Aubrey Norton is preparing to take up his role as the country’s newest Opposition Leader.
However, this is not a done deal, as the other person whose name was selected is Volda Lawrence.
Representative of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) List of Candidates, former President David Granger, has already written to GECOM, asking that the names of Norton and Lawrence be extracted from the list. Norton and Lawrence have been selected to fill the vacancies in the National Assembly following the controversial resignations of former Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon and former MP Nicolette Henry.
Riding on a mandate from the PNC faction of the APNU/AFC, Norton is already preparing to take up the position as the country’s newest Opposition Leader. During a press conference on Tuesday, Norton said he is of the view that the party must make more use of the Freedom of Information Act.
“There are a number of priorities, but I do not want to signal almost immediately what it is I intend to do. I am going to meet with all our Members of Parliament shortly, and the ideas I have, we will then discuss together and work a way forward”, he said.
“Mind you, it’s not solely the Leader of the Opposition; it has to be a collective effort in which all persons will contribute. But I do believe that we need to make more use of the Freedom of Information Act,” Norton said.
He was also asked whether there would be any changes to the Opposition parliamentary side, once he is elected as Opposition Leader, such as persons being recalled. According to him, while there would certainly be portfolio changes, he has not considered recalling anyone.
“I don’t know what you mean. If you’re talking about changes in terms of portfolios, yes. There have to be, because at least two persons would have left. And it seems self-evident to me that there will have to be changes,” he said.
“The question of recall is not something that I’ve put in my head and will determine willy-nilly in advance. Recall is, as I understand it, based on the party’s lack of confidence in someone. If that situation arises, then as a party we will deal with it,” Norton explained.
Norton also spoke about what factors were involved in the selection of Lawrence to accompany him to Parliament. Lawrence, who served as Public Health Minister and Minister of Social Services under the former APNU+AFC Government, is an accountant by profession.
“This is an issue that was discussed at various levels in the party. At one central executive (meeting), I did point out clearly that there is need for a finance person. Additionally, I consulted with (GAP, NFA), even though it is not a prerequisite. Even before that, I also engaged the AFC. So, I think it is the result of a number of processes that I consider important in the process,” he explained.
There was, meanwhile, some controversy as it relates to the letter that Granger sent to GECOM Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Vishnu Persaud, since the signature on the letter differs from the official signature Granger used as President; for instance, when he signed various bills into law.
However, it was explained by a spokesperson for Granger that the letter to GECOM carries Granger’s electronic signature, which has always differed from his written one.
“The letter sent to the CEO is authentic, with an authentic electronic signature of the Representative of the List. It must be noted that, since the beginning of this process, the Representative of the List has used this signature when communicating with the Chief Elections Officer,” a statement sent on behalf of Granger said.
“The Representative of the List has now fulfilled his constitutional duty by submitting the names of candidates to GECOM for consideration, and now wait for further instructions, if any, should be undertaken on his part,” it also said.
Lawrence has been accused of electoral fraud, and has since been charged following the March 2020 elections.
It is alleged that on March 5, 2020, with intent to defraud, Lawrence uttered a report purporting to be a true declaration of all votes cast in District Four for the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, knowing same to be forged.
The APNU/AFC Opposition accounts for 31 of the 32-seat parliamentary Opposition, while the joinder list, comprising of A New and United Guyana (ANUG), the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), and The New Movement (TNM), occupies the remaining seat. The governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) holds a one-seat majority in the 65-seat House, having won 33 seats.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, has already said the vacant seats on the APNU/AFC side of the National Assembly can be filled as quickly as the next parliamentary sitting. But this depends on how quickly the Opposition moves to fill those seats. (G3)