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Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton turned down an invitation to meet President Irfaan Ali today, Monday, May 30, 2022 over a missed deadline and lack of critical information on proposed nominees for constitutional appointments but President Ali said Norton’s absence is a demonstration of his immaturity.
Through the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, President Ali had extended an invitation to the Opposition Leader to engage in a second round of consultation on constitutional appointments at the Office of the President but Norton, in a letter, said President Ali had failed to meet with him within a period of one week as agreed during the initial meeting. Further, he contended that he was not “in receipt of the grounds upon which each specific recommendation for appointments is being made.”
But President Ali, in a statement this afternoon, said Norton’s unexplained absence has “demonstrated his immaturity” in addressing matters of national importance.
Today’s meeting was expected to include discussions on the appointments of statutory and constitutional bodies as required by the Constitution.
“These are important national issues and I want them completed in an environment of respect and an environment of dignity, because as I have said before, I am pursuing ‘One Guyana.’ It is clear to me that those aspirations of mine may not be shared by Mister Norton, because he did not have the dignity, the professionalism to even respond orally or in writing to the invitation,” President Ali said in a recorded statement.
But while the Head of State has contended that Norton failed to respond to the invitation, the Opposition Leader earlier today made public a letter he had dispatched to the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance explaining his intended absence.
In the letter dated May 30, 2022, Norton pointed out that in a joint statement both him and the President agreed that consultation will be guided by the Constitution, and further, that an in-person consultation would resume within a week.
According to Norton, the prescribed timeline expired without any prior communication. He said such inaction is testimony of the Government’s disregard for agreements it signs and a manifestation of bad faith.
Minister Teixeira, in a letter dated May 27, 2022, reportedly explained that the meeting could not have been held earlier due to the country’s hosting of the inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo and its 56th Independence Anniversary celebration but Norton rubbished the explanation proffered.
“Clearly, when the President was making the agreement he had to know that he had those engagements since they were planned long before our engagement. I hesitate to think that the President made an agreement while knowing fully well that he was unavailable. Such actions are either a manifestation of incompetence or a disregard for his and others constitutional responsibilities. Whatever the cause, it is unacceptable,” Norton told Minister Teixeira.
Further, he expressed concerned about the lack of information on the proposed nominees.
But the Head of State said, during the initial round of consultation, Norton had made one request for all the Curriculum Vitaes of the persons put forward for the various agencies. That information was provided within the time frame committed.
“In compliance with the relevant statutory and constitutional provisions, the statute or articles relative to each specific one was identified including the proposed names for each were provided. These include the proposed five names for the Integrity Commission, the proposed name for the Judicial Service Commission, the proposed Chairperson from among the National Assembly’s approved four names of the Police Service Commission, and the proposed three names for the Teaching Service Commission,” the President detailed.
President Ali, who at the time was sitting in the presence of the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C, said despite the posture of the Opposition Leader, he will nonetheless continue to move the country forward in keeping with his constitutional requirements.
“We will not have those requirements held hostage by political objects. It is with great regret that I have to address you on this matter,” the Head of state made clear.
The initial meeting was held on May 13, in presence of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, SC, Mohabir Anil Nandlall and Member of Parliament, Roysdale Forde, S.C.