Opposition Leader, US Secretary of State hold talks

Last Updated on Thursday, 6 July 2023, 21:05 by Denis Chabrol

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on Thursday held talks with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a number of concerns about governance, corruption and poverty and the need for electoral reforms; talks that International Relations Professor Mark Kirton  hoped could lead to dialogue on major issues.

Mr Norton said he told Mr Blinken that Guyana was virtually a one-party state,  discriminatory award of contracts, economic starvation of the African Guyanese community, politicisation of the Guyana Police Force as an arm of the governing People’s Progressive Party, and the need for clean voters list and biometrics as a precondition for stability after the 2025 general and regional elections. “He seems very much interested in us being able to have a kind of a stable situation after the next election and I said, essentially, that that is possible once we can get a clean voters list and biometrics among other things,” he was quoted as telling News Source. The Guyana Elections Commission and the governing People’s Progressive Party are on record as saying that there are sufficient safeguards to avoid multiple voting or voter impersonation.

Mr Norton said he presented a dossier containing the opposition’s views on food and energy security, and heavy reliance on infrastructure.  “I  pointed out that there was an over-focus on capital expenditure, for instance infrastructure, but no real focus on human development,” he added.

Mr Blinken told a joint news conference with President Irfaan Ali that they had very productive discussions, “building on conversations that the president and I had in Washington last year.”  Following those talks last July Mr Blinken had said Guyana was a key partner in among, other objectives, promoting shared prosperity, inclusive growth, strengthened transparency.

Professor Kirton welcomed the range of broad national issues that Mr Norton reportedly raised with the US Secretary of State and hoped that could set the stage for national dialogue. “I think there may be more reasoned dialogue. I would hope, as a Guyanese citizen, that we see this kind of interaction as leading to greater national dialogue; perhaps some inputs from the international community and the US specifically,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

The talks between Mr Blinken and Mr Norton were apparently held at the US Embassy, shortly after the top American diplomat met with President Irfaan Ali and several government ministers at State House where a joint news conference was held. Only two local pro-government media houses and two journalists who travelled with the Secretary of State were allowed to ask questions.

The Norton-Blinken engagement apparently caught the Guyana government by surprise, according to multiple sources.