Opposition to file information requests- Norton

Last Updated on Tuesday, 5 April 2022, 22:33 by Denis Chabrol

PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton addressing his party’s General Council on Saturday. (file picture). 

Ahead of his expected emergence as Opposition Leader, Mr. Aubrey Norton said the coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) plans to file requests for information under the Access to Information (ATI) legislation.

“I do believe that we need to make more use of the Freedom of Information Act and begin to, through the Parliament, demand more information from this government which seems to be obsessed with lack of transparency and lack of accountability and we would have to take action to ensure that they need to be more transparent and accountable,” he said. He added that picketing and protests have not been ruled out.

The Commissioner of Information is  Retired Justice Charles Ramson. There have been concerns that Guyanese at large as well as media houses and specialised interest groups have not been maximising the use of the Commissioner of Information since the Access To Information Act was passed in 2011.

Mr. Norton declined to telegraph his other priorities when he assumes the post of Opposition Leader, but said he would be meeting with parliamentarians “shortly” and also reassign parliamentary responsibilities of the Shadow Cabinet due to the resignation of Shadow Education Minister Dr. Nicolette Henry and then Opposition Leader Mr. Joseph Harmon. “If you’re talking about changes in terms of portfolio etc.; yes, there have to be because at least two persons would have left and it seems self-evident to me that there will have to be changes,” he said.

Mr. Norton, who is also leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) and APNU Chairman, said Ms. Volda Lawrence was selected to return to the National Assembly because she is specialised in accountancy and finance and was the best pick after Mr. Carl Greenidge who is Guyana’s Agent in the boundary case with Venezuela at the International Court of Justice. “When we looked at the list, the next person that would bring to bear those skills and have the experience – Volda Lawrence stands out and, therefore, it was based on that the party chose Comrade Lawrence as somebody with competence in accounting and finance as somebody that will complement the team,” he told a news conference.

Mr. Norton is poised to become Guyana’s Opposition Leader, having thrashed the other candidates for the leadership of that party which is the largest and most influential partnership in the coalition.

He said there was no rush for him to consider recalling any APNU+AFC parliamentarian, even as he added that there would be two major reasons for doing s0 through consultation among the coalition partners. “The question of recall is not something that I have put in my head and will determine willy-nilly ion advance. Recall, as I understand it, has to be based on the party’s lack of confidence in somebody or lack of recognition that they aren’t performing. If that situation arises, then , as a party and a coalition we’ll deal with it but I don’t want to sit down here with a plan to recall people,” he said.

Rather than being “too obsessed with recrimination”, the incoming Opposition Leader said his priority was to strengthen the parliament to become a functioning group to hold the governing People’s Progressive Party (PPP) accountable.