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By GHK Lall
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton came into that important and crucial office with many expectations hanging over his head. Disenchantments with prior leadership paved the way for his ascension to the role of chief watchdog over the PPP Government’s exploits, mysteries, and the host of other suspect activities that have come to characterize its governance of this country. Because of the nuanced, but hard and demanding nature of this leadership job, I thought it timely to conduct this little evaluation of Mr. Norton’s still short tenure at the top of his group. The objective is to determine how he has performed.
His head has to be heavy, filled with the whispers, if not the clear sounds, of his supporters asking what he is really about. There were and still are rich expectations that Mr. Norton is the kind of leader to put a stop to the PPP express train. It is a train that has inflicted considerable damage in its travels. Who has not been mowed down and runover, has been knocked out of the way. The problem for Mr. Norton is that they are his own people, the very people who have placed such high hopes, sensed some type of a Guyanese liberator in him. My understanding is that some disillusionment has started to creep into the conversations of opposition supporters, some disquiet among opposition watchers, and some heaving ideas in those of a more radical bent. In terms of the latter, heaving boils down to this tense crossroad: is Mr. Norton the man to rise to the occasion?
I think he has his work cutout for him. Expectations are abundant, yet his room to manoeuvre is so limited, the resources at his disposal, a project beginning to get off the ground, gathering some level of muscle. Mr. Norton has made ‘mobilize and organize’ vital components of his longer-term strategy and plans for the always rocky ground of Guyana. I think he also has to incentivize and galvanize; my thinking is that the two feed from each other, they are not separate ingredients, but interrelated. For to galvanize, something different than what Mr. Norton has embodied and projected has to start to take shape. I detect that his people are watching and waiting for a harder line, a tougher course, of action, which commences with his leadership attitudes.
This is what the impatient in his circle of supporters are waiting for; those who are firm in the belief that he is the man to take to a different place. It is a tightrope fraught with possibilities, but also one littered with peril, which any miscalculation could come back to haunt. Mr. Norton’s challenges are many, and they are formidable.
My continuing sense is that the internal dynamics of the opposition is still a work in progress. This is putting a feathery touch on raw circumstances. The AFC just raised its hand, and the word is that it is out. The Americans are keen to every move made by Mr. Norton, and their vigilance has to do with what could be. That is, what jeopardizes American interests in Guyana, and to head off before issues come to a fateful precipice. It is why the American Ambassador seizes the opportunity, even creates her own space, to pound a consistent message. In a word it is inclusion. More inclusion means there is far from enough of it. President Ali and his people may delight in broadcasting their ‘One Guyana’ slogan, but it crashes head-on and comes out looking battered when the American Ambassador keeps up her chorus about inclusion. Like Guyanese naysayers, the Ambassador is a truthteller.
This is in Mr. Norton’s favor, but is also the bottom of a snake pit. An insufficiency of inclusion can only fuel his narratives, postures, and energies. In the next instance, he moves too aggressively with the opening it presents and the baby party can break up all too abruptly, as well as tensely. One of the clouds which Mr. Norton operates under is that since he first met with the resident US Ambassador, he has not emerged as the same man. Too constrained. Too careful. Too circumspect. It seems that the original man lost some of his luster, definitely his muscular buff. He must overcome that perception.
One of the biggest areas in which this solidified encircles that fatted pig of a prize that Guyana has by the ocean. Petroleum. I appreciate that that comes later, but it is the firstborn of oil. Mr. Norton did not come out swinging in the long first days of his earliest months at the helm. To his credit, he has since been vocal and insistent about where Guyanese should be with this incredible endowment. The logic and arithmetic are uncomplicated, viz., more for Guyana, translates to more for Guyanese, which should include his people. Now this brings to the PPP Government.
Mr. Norton’s political adversary is cunning, callous, and crooked to the marrow. God gave Guyana oil, so that all three of those attributes could come to light and arrest the attention of the world. There is a school of thought that he has not pressed the PPP Government and its leaders hard enough. I agree. Inclusion is a con game, a cruel joke, and a confirmed farce. A handout certainly helps, but it doesn’t heal. A flying Presidential visit with a charitable contribution is not governance, but of goring those held as enemies, and then throwing a bone at them. Ambassador Lynch said Guyana needs what is about sustainability. I agree again.
Last, there is this business about the voters list and bloat, with the PPP’s position clearest: inclusion of all. Yet, there is this perversity of almost half of Guyana consistently excluded, shortchanged, punished, and pushed around when public funds are involved. I wouldn’t participate in any (any) elections, and give legitimacy to what is bloated. Mr. Norton must decide. He comes on strong. Or he goes along. Alea jacta est (the die is cast).