Last Updated on Monday, 20 December 2021, 10:00 by Denis Chabrol
Newly-elected leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Aubrey Norton on Monday hinted that a number of parliamentarians might be recalled, even as he declined to comment on Mr. Joseph Harmon’s position that he would remain the Opposition Leader.
“I could say to you, however, that one thing that is evident is that the party comrades who would have elected me seem to have suggested by the mandate that there is need for change at the parliamentary level,” he said. He said steps to have him become a parliamentarian would be discussed by the Central Executive Committee of the party and it is only after then a decision would be taken.
Mr. Norton swept to party power on Saturday with 967 votes, beating Joseph Harmon who garnered 245 and Richard Vanwest Charles who secured 64.
Shortly after the March 2020 general and regional elections, then PNCR Leader and Representative of the List of Candidates, Mr. David Granger had excluded then General Secretary, Amna Ally, the party Chairman Volda Lawrence and other seasoned members from returning to the National Assembly. Instead, Mr. Granger parachuted his long-time confidante into the PNCR’s Central Executive Committee and had him nominated by the combined opposition as Opposition Leader.
Mr. Granger remains the Representative of the List under Guyanese law and it is he who has to submit the names of persons to be recalled and replaced, a process that involves the the Chief Election Officer and the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Mr. Harmon, in conceding defeat, on Sunday said that he would work for the unity of the party as an “ordinary member” but he would remain as Opposition Leader in the 65-seat National Assembly. When asked whether that has been settled, Mr. Norton said, “I don’t want to comment on anything Mr. Harmon said in the public domain. Mr. Harmon has accepted, at least with when he spoke with me, the will of the people in the party and I would just let us operate based on the will of the people in the party,” he said.
A legal expert has preliminarily told Demerara Waves Online News that while the majority of the opposition parliamentarians could vote to appoint a new Opposition Leader, that person would have to be a parliamentarian but Mr. Norton is not.
With the backing of a resounding victory by the Team Norton slate, Mr. Norton said candidates from the Joseph Harmon and Dr Richard Vanwest Charles slates would be put on committees as part of efforts to revitalise the PNCR. He said he spent Sunday talking with “all of our comrades, who worked for other campaigns” telling them that the internal competition was over and now was the time to unite. “We now need to work together to involve them in the various committees, etc. of the party and build a united front to take on the People’s Progressive Party,” he told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/ Demerara Waves Online News.
Asked if he would be coopting party members from other slates on the Central Executive Committee, Mr. Norton said he wanted persons in that decision-making body who have “abilities” that would benefit the party. “If one of those persons happened to be somebody who campaigned for another candidate, they will be coopted but a number of things should inform cooption,” he said. Explaining that the PNCR Leader could bring in five persons on his own or he and the Central Executive Committee could coopt, he said reasons for doing so should be other professional competence, ethnic balance and political skills. “Nobody will be excluded once they have the requisite skills that are needed,” he said.
The PNCR leader said “all options are on the table” for a number of his immediate priorities- a new voters’ list, breaking up of Region Four into four sub-districts, removal of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission Retired Justice Claudette Singh and the change of the Chief Election Officer Vishnu Persaud. Mr. Norton restated that the Chairman was biased and Mr. Persaud was not hired based on the commission’s own criteria.