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..says he is looking forward to meeting former presidents, including Granger
By Svetlana Marshall
President Irfaan Ali, though underscoring the importance of ‘inclusive governance,’ on Thursday, skirted a question on whether he is prepared to consult with the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon on constitutional matters and appointments. Instead, he asked whether the Opposition Leader has shifted his position on the Government with regards to its ‘legitimacy’ or ‘illegitimacy.’
During a joint press conference at the European Union’s (EU) Ambassador’s residence to announce the payment of G$19.8B as part of an EU Budget Support Programme, President Ali said inclusivity is the critical to the system of governance.
“Issues of inequality, issues of disparity, these things are addressed from a political, economic, social and legislative perspective, and all of these things have to work in tandem; it have to work in tandem for it to have demonstrable effect on the population,” President Ali said.
But when asked whether he is prepared to sit down with the Opposition Leader in the nation’s interest and as mandated by the Constitution, President Ali skirted the question. Instead, he asked the press whether the Opposition Leader has shifted his position.
“One, Mr. Harmon has not changed his position; secondly, in the interest of inclusiveness and in keeping with what I committed to in my inauguration speech, I have extended the invitation to all the former presidents, and I am anticipating and I am hoping for a fruitful meeting, in the attendance of all of the presidents,” President Ali told reporters.
The country’s former presidents – David Granger, Bharrat Jagdeo, Donald Ramotar and Samuel Hinds – are expected to meet with President Ali on December 15, 2020 for a high-level meeting on Guyana’s development. And, it is President Ali’s expectation that all would be in attendance including former President Granger. “I am very, very confident that it will be a fruitful engagement, and that all of Guyana will see all of the former presidents acting responsibly and be a part of that engagement,” President Ali said as he diverted from the issue.
While former President Granger is the Chairman of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) – the leading Opposition party in the country, it is Harmon, who is the Leader of the Opposition.
Harmon has long indicated that the Constitution sets no pre-condition with regards to consultation between the President and the Opposition Leader.
“I just wish to remind that the Constitution sets no precondition for consultation between President and the Leader of the Opposition,” Harmon had said during an earlier press conference.
President Ali has repeatedly said the Office of the Leader of the Opposition will not be recognised until it recognises the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) as a legitimate Government. His Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Government, Gail Teixeira went one step further and indicated that the Opposition will be locked out from nominating persons to sit on State Boards until this and other pre-conditions are met. For the Opposition Leader, the Government’s posture can also be described as a blatant violation of the Constitution.
While the nomination of members to State Boards is premise on an aged-old agreement between the PPP/C and the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R), Harmon said the Constitution specifically requires that there be consultation with the Leader of the Opposition by the President in the appointment of a number of constitutional office holders. “No precondition is attached,” the Opposition Leader iterated.
Article 127 of the Constitution requires that agreements be reached between the President and the Opposition Leader for the appointment of Chancellor and Chief justice while Article 191 mandates that the ombudsman be appointed by the President based on consultation with the Opposition Leader.
Articles 198, 200, 207, 210, 212 and 161 outline similar requirements for the appointment of members of the Judicial Service Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Teaching Service Commission, the Police Service Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission.
President Ali, when asked on Thursday, about the substantive appointments of the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice, said that the process has not been initiated.
Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Cantó, however, expressed the hope that the country, in moving forward, can engage in a process of reconciliation and inclusiveness.
He said the 2020 Electoral Crisis, which spanned for a period of five months, has left many Guyanese frustrated, and as such, reconciliation is critical as the country looks to the future.