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Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton said he stands ready to engage in meaningful consultation with President Irfaan Ali on constitutional appointments, however, he warned that any further delay, would be a show of bad faith.
Norton made the statement on Thursday during PNCR’s weekly press conference. He said as the Opposition Leader he “stands ready to fulfill his responsibilities where the Guyana constitution dictates that the Government must seek the agreement of or have meaningful consultations with the Leader of the Opposition. On this score, further delays and excuses by the government in making judicial and other appointments can also be described for what they are: acts of bad faith and political machination.”
Though President Ali has signaled his willingness to consult with the newly appointed Opposition Leader on constitutional appointments, Norton said he has not received any correspondence from the Head of State initiating the process.
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.
Though the Constitution sets no precondition for these consultations, President Ali, upon taking office on August 2, 2020, had refused to engage then Leader of the Opposition Joseph Harmon over claims by the Opposition that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government is illegal.
However, the President shifted his position in February, 2022 following the resignation of Harmon, saying that he will abide by the Constitution and consult with the incoming Opposition Leader where the Constitution mandates.
Norton was elected Opposition Leader on April 13, 2022, hours after he was sworn in as an APNU+AFC Member of Parliament.
Meanwhile, Norton, during Thursday’s presser, endeavored to do more for the people of Guyana.
“In this regard, for instance, meetings with the President (should they occur) must extend beyond the appointment of commissioners and judges. Meetings must also discuss Opposition concerns about good governance and the abuse of political power, including the discrimination against opposition-led local councils, the uneven and incomplete distribution of flood and other relief, the unsatisfactory oversight of the nation’s patrimony in the NRF, and the abuses of human and legal rights by some rogue police ranks,” he explained.
According to him, the coalition, under his stewardship will present itself to the nation as a superior alternative than the current regime in managing the affairs of the country.
Norton said the Opposition will also strive to improve the effectiveness of the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly has not delivered on the expectations of the 1999/2000 constitution reform process. In fact, as shown by the recent passage of the PPP/C Motion to change the quorum for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the work of parliament has regressed. It remains ineffective in the scrutiny and investigation of government decisions and actions. It continues to fail to hold the government accountable. To rescue the situation, there will be five main priorities,” he told journalists.
To increase the effectiveness of Parliament as a forum for representing the people, Norton said the Opposition will push for more sittings of the House, public hearings on Bills, appointments, motions from civil society and the wider society, increased use of Private Members’ Day, funding of constituency offices for MPs, and the establishment of research facilities for MPs.
He said the Opposition will also hold the Government accountable by energizing and refocusing the oversight and investigative powers of the four Parliamentary Sectoral Committees, especially those for economic affairs and the social sector.
According to him, the Opposition will also “resist all attempts by the Speaker of the House to undermine and restrict the Opposition to freely present its views and positions through open debate, tabling of motions, and questioning of Ministers.” Norton said too that the Coalition intends to address the inequitable coverage provided to the Opposition by the state media.