Last Updated on Sunday, 17 September 2023, 9:58 by Denis Chabrol
Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton has identified a number of major issues he would like to discuss with President Irfaan Ali, outside of constitutionally required consultations.
Speaking on Caribbean Showtime TV in Toronto, Canada, he put discrimination, the need for a clean voters list and biometric verification of voters at polling stations at the top of his agenda should the Guyanese leader agree to such an engagement. “Those are the issues that we are prepared to engage on outside of the constitutional matters,” he said.
Mr Norton stressed that those “critical issues” must include the need for a clean voters list as a main ingredient for democracy because the roll is evidently bloated. Of a population of 750,000 persons, he noted that there are about 250,000 schoolchildren and 682,000 eligible voters. “I am prepared to meet outside of the formal mechanism but there are some critical issues to be addressed,” he said.
But, at the same time, the Opposition Leader said a key question that would have to be resolved before there is any talk about power sharing is who is really the President of Guyana- Dr Ali or Mr Bharrat Jagdeo. “Unless they can decide who wields power in Guyana and who is the actual President, any talk about that kind of negotiation won’t make much sense,” he said.
President Ali earlier this month again reiterated that he would meet Mr Norton only on constitutional matters but at the same time he was willing to speak with the Opposition Leader such as taking a phone call. For his part, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo has cited the need for Mr Norton’s People’s National Congress Reform to apologise for rigging elections from 1968 to 1985 and attempting to do so again in 2020. Mr Norton had said that he did not know that his party had rigged elections.
The opposition A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change have repeatedly charged that the list facilitates voter impersonation and multiple voting, but the incumbent People’s Progressive Party often counters those claims by saying that there are sufficient safeguards at polling stations including polling agents.
The Ali administration has so far refused to amend the election laws to allow for the use of biometric identification at polling stations and has said that constitutional changes to allow for fresh house-to-house registration will be considered during the constitutional reform process. The High Court has ruled that no one can be taken off the national register of registrants by way of house-to-house registration.