OP-ED | Elect Norton as Opposition Leader and get on with the business

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By GHK Lall

This is surprising, indeed. At least, it is to me, an observer. As a citizen, I am concerned that the issue of the Leader of the Opposition is still up in the air, as in unsettled. The more I think of this, the more something is telling me that ‘unsettled’ is not the choicest word. It seems that drawn out and draining away, might all be closer to the reality.
Not for the first time, I feel it necessary to say that I am not a member of any political party in this country. I go further: I have never met either Mr. Joseph Harmon or Mr. Aubrey Norton, though by now, we should all know a little of what each other represents. But as a citizen of Guyana, in which capacity I write, it is concerning that this issue of the Leader of the Opposition remains at the stage that it does today, with no light as to how this will play out; or, more importantly, how long this stalemate will be around. I speak for no one else, but this is the crux of the matter: how long will this go on, and at what cost to several constituencies, some not only within the PNCR, or the AFC, or even the larger opposition, but beyond it.

I now shift gears. We have seen, heard, read, and experienced what has taken place repeatedly and more vulgarly as time elapsed since August 2, 2021. The sum of those needs no retelling, but they have embarrassed, disappointed, wounded, and robbed this country. During that period, it is most unfortunate that we have had an opposition that was silent and largely missing in action at best, and impotent and suspect at worst. The PPPC Government used that time, space, and the many opportunities allowed to run riot and trample upon the citizens of this country, including some of its very own.

I am talking of billions upon billions in questionable spending, corruption with flood and virus relief monies, and general thievery that has not been ever seen in this country. And this has been in the space of not even a half year. This occurred because there was no effective, in-your-face opposition to speak of, or worth its salt. The opposition in his country was reduced to a few commentators, columnists, and a couple of editorialists and media houses.

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Clearly a change was urgently needed, definitely way overdue. This was, if only to do something about the runaway PPPC Government that was helping itself to the patrimony of the people, while sowing the seeds to weaken further, if not destroy, the fabric of this society. All of this was happening with many shallow words from an embarrassment of a head of state and a group of like-minded self-enrichers. It was so bad that even staunch PPPC supporters were speaking out publicly. All the while, the main opposition was missing in action.
Thus, when the race for the leader of the second largest party in Guyana, the PNCR, was declared to be officially over, it was concluded, by extension, this meant that of Leader of the Opposition was also as good as done. Except that the indications are it is not. So, there is this impasse; maybe, Mexican stand-off is a better description.

Now, I must be sharp, and I will be. This is the best New Year’s gift that the PPPC Government could have hoped for, perhaps have a hand involved in some way. On the other hand, it is the absolute worst development for Opposition supporters, and those citizens in broader society (unaffiliated with any group), who were looking forward to different days in 2022 and thereafter. Whatever the reasons for the issue of Opposition Leader being held up (or hijacked), it needs to be closed out immediately, as in yesterday. Whoever the political stalwarts, be they within the PNCR, or APNU, they need to come to their senses and understand the implications of their action(s), and not only that, but the appearance of such.

It is not good for Guyana. Guyanese yearn for a united opposition with a strong leader that offers the best way forward. I reconfirm my own puny position: it is Mr. Aubrey Norton. The biggest group by far in the opposition gave him a clear leadership mandate for the PNCR, which was recognised by most, if not all, especially former President David Granger. I think that anybody in their right senses, by any element of logic, by whatever formula used, would have to appreciate and conclude that that PNCR leadership mantle handed to Mr. Norton translates to him being the Leader of the Opposition. There should be no quibbling or splitting of hairs over that, particularly at this sensitive hour.

I call upon Mr. Granger, a man for whom I voted twice (the only time I have ever voted anywhere) to use his influence and let this impasse be a thing of the past. Similarly, I reach out to Mr. Ramjattan of the AFC and plead that to have this issue percolating plays right into the dirty hands and dirtier minds of the PPPC cabal, from the brain trust down. Mr. Norton as Opposition Leader should be a no brainer, hence a non-issue. Let us not go down this road, for it is self-destructive. Also, it would zap the surge of interest and energy that greeted the announcement that Mr. Norton had won that leadership contest. In other words, there would be fragmentation inside the APNU umbrella, and spreading disillusionment within the ranks of once reinvigorated opposition supporters.

I felt well about Mr. Norton’s victory, and I have said so publicly. I thought that the moment of truth had arrived for the PPPC, that its days of tyrannies, and the creeping totalitarianism detected would be arrested. Should this Opposition Leader question/issue/matter linger interminably, it would be damaging to nationalists and centrists. It would be the best 2022 present for the PPPC Government and its manipulators.



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