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Norton, Jagdeo set conditions for debate

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 May 2022, 7:48 by Denis Chabrol

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo. At centre is the European Union’s Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Canto.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday night set conditions for a public debate, in a heated but respectful exchange between the two senior political figures.

Mr. Jagdeo to Mr. Norton: “If you bring your SOPs (Statements of Poll) tomorrow, make them public, the next day I’ll debate you.

Mr. Norton to Mr. Jagdeo: “If you accept the observation reports, I will debate you, once you allow the observation reports.”

The courts had ruled against the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowrnfield’s attempt to deduct 100,000 odd votes on the grounds that the observation reports had shown that that they had been invalid.

It is unclear whether the Vice President readily understood to which observation reports Mr. Norton was referring.  Mr. Jagdeo interpreted that to mean the reports by international election observer missions prompting the Opposition Leader to accuse him of “shifting the goalpost” away from Order 60 that had governed the national voted recount.

Earlier in the informal exchange, Mr. Norton queried: “Why you want to see my statements of poll?” and even indicated that those would show that tthe People’s National Congress Reform-led coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) had won the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections.

Mr. Norton challenged Mr. Jagdeo to show him where the courts ruled that the coalition sought to rig the election. In that regard, the Vice President promised to extract a section of the judgement and send it to him.

The APNU+AFC has two election petition-related appeals that are yet to be decided upon finall.

After the Opposition Leader explained the meaning of observation reports in the context of Order 60 “to determine which votes were valid”, the Vice President said the Representation of the People Act states what is a recount. “You go t0 the law.”

During the formal speeches by Mr. Jagdeo and the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Canto at a reception to mark Europe Day,  they referred to the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections. Referring to the role of the international community in ensuring that the accurate results were upheld, he said ,”I recall one day them coming to check our Statements of Poll that we had uploaded three or four days after the elections to check whether we had tampered with the Statements of Poll and until today, Ambassador, those Statements of Poll that would have justified Mingo’s fraudulent figures never surfaced. I fact, the real Statements of Poll were submitted to the Chief Justice by the GECOM Secretariat,” he said.

For his part,  the EU envoy said, “we will keep working to uphold democracy like we have worked together. We will continue to uphold governance, rule of law to help Guyana wherever Guyana needs us- electoral reform, governance, forest partnerships, preservation of the environment, all the many challenges.”

They included budgetary allocations to Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice), one of Mr. Norton’s strongholds, and the role of the Regional Executive Officer. Reacting to concerns about the imposition of a budget for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) by the Regional Executive Officer, Mr. Jagdeo noted that the elected council advises the Regional Executive Officer. He said there are instances where the Regional Executive Officer actually hears of the real needs 0f communities in contrast to the Council..

Mr. Jagdeo said when APNU+AFC was in office from 2015 to 2020, the Region Five Council only met three times.