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Norton digs heels in on no meeting with President; indicates President lied about handshake

President Irfaan Ali. Aubrey Norton.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on Friday refused to formally ask President Irfaan Ali for talks on governance issues, saying that already the Guyanese leader has rebuffed his requests for constitutionally required engagements.

“If you’re talking about the greater good, then the Constitution must be the basis for it  and if you can’t meet at the level to fulfill the obligations under the law, then I don’t see why I would stretch my imagination to believe that he will be willing and disposed to dealing with those that aren’t governed by the constitution,” he said.  Mr Norton said if there was a discernible change in the President’s posture, he would review his position.

Mr Norton also said he had no confidence in Dr Ali having the political power to hold negotiations as it was clear that Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo was the functionary with the real authority to make decisions. “All the noise the President is making, I don’t know that the President has the power of that party. The person that clearly has the power is Bharrat Jagdeo,” he told a news conference.

Party Chairman Shurwayne Holder also told the news conference that the incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration has a dismally poor track record of using other fora such as National Assembly, regional and local government councils, state boards and
commissions, and joint task forces for inter-party discussion and agreement. “The PPP has shown absolutely no interest in such
forums. Instead, it has continuously sought to sideline and undermine their existence and activities. The PPP-chaired Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources Resources, for example, has never met during this parliament. Opposition members
have not been appointed to state boards and commissions. Opposition-led local councils are being by-passed and mistreated. The list goes on,” Mr Holder said in a prepared statement.

The PNCR said before holding talks with the government, it would be important to obtain records from the government but those were not forthcoming.

On whether he saw a role for the United States (US) to broker talks between the government and the opposition, Mr Norton said Guyana is a sovereign nation but at the same time he recognised the importance role of friendly nations. “I believe that Guyana is a sovereign country and we welcome the overtures of the United States. We’re always glad when people are showing an interest in Guyana and, therefore, we have no problem with the offer but I believe the onus is on Guyanese to solve Guyanese problems,” he said.  He contended that there would be little or no change once the PPP was bent on “domination and control.”

Reacting to Mr Jagdeo’s condition that the PNCR/ A Partnership for National Unity must first apologise for rigging elections from 1968 to 1985 and its attempt to do so in the 2020 polls as stated in evidence in a thrown-out elections petition, the PNCR Leader said he was unaware that his party had ever rigged elections. “Not to my knowledge,” he remarked. At the same time, he said “no party is innocent.”

Mr Norton said there was evidence that the PPPC has perpetrated electoral malpractices such as the award of a parliamentary seat for Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice) and the findings of the recount of the March 2020 general and regional elections.

Responding to President’s Ali’s “disingenuous” position that he could not meet with Norton who twice refused to shake his hand, the Opposition Leader recalled that he later shook the Guyanese leader’s hand at a Seventh Day Adventist church service. “If the President wanted to be honest, he will say to you that we met after that at the Seventh Day Adventist programme and I thought, at that time, that it was a good church programme that brought us together and the President came to me to shake hands and I shook his hands. However, it seems not in his interest to provide those photographs,” he said.

Vice President Jagdeo on Thursday said the opposition was alleging discrimination against Afro-Guyanese as a means of political engagement with the opposition through the backdoor. He deemed that approach a “scam” and vowed that the PPP would not fall into that trap.