Last Updated on Monday, 28 August 2023, 18:21 by Denis Chabrol
President Irfaan Ali on Monday virtually ruled out any possibility of engaging Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton on the ‘One Guyana’ initiative, instead suggesting that he was taking his mission to ordinary Guyanese and eventually the opposition leadership would be forced to follow.
“My work with the opposition is my work in every area conceived or perceived to be an opposition area,” he told Demerara Waves Online News when asked why he is not reaching out to Mr Norton directly.
He was confident that his ‘One Guyana’ mission, whose commission is expected to be launched in September, would “win from bottom up.” “If the top doesn’t want to embrace, the bottom is embracing beautifully and that is what I want. Any foundation that shifts, the top will have to shift,” Dr Ali said.
Dr Ali had in September, 2022 told a meeting in Mocha that he preferred to meet the people directly rather than engage their elected local government council. In the March, 2020 general and regional elections, Dr Ali’s People’s Progressive Party Civic won 233,336 votes and Mr Norton’s A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) secured 217,920 votes.
Already, he said the grassroots was shifting to the extent that “those who don’t want to shake hands to shake hands”, in apparent reference to Mr Norton’s refusal to shake his hand several months ago. At the weekend in Queens, New York, Mr Norton said a handshake represents cordiality.
Asked what stopped him from reaching out to Mr Norton directly and say “let’s talk”, the President said the PNCR and Opposition Leader refused to shake his hand directly. “Why is it something stopping me? What is stopping him from reaching out?… I reached out. The man refused to shake my hand twice. What you want me to do? Bow before him? He’s God. The Opposition Leader is not God,” he said.
On whether a handshake was the only mechanism for reaching out to the Opposition Leader, the President retorted: “Oh my God! If you can’t shake the hands of a humble man, what else would you do?”.
The President said other instances of reaching out to Mr Norton was a court action in response to a request for holding constitutionally required consultation and his failure to confess about electoral malpractice in the March 2020 general and regional elections. “All I’m asking him to do is confess his sins of trying to rig the elections. Aw! Is that too difficult? Confess thy sins,” he said.
After polling day, the Returning Officer for District/ Region Four, Clairmont Mingo had issued two separate declarations in favour of APNU+AFC. There had also been a third rejected declaration showing an APNU+AFC win minus more than 100,000 votes which the then Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield had deemed invalid votes.
After a series of court cases leading right up to the Caribbean Court of Justice, all votes cast countrywide were recounted and the PPPC was declared the winner.