Ali/Norton meeting: President says talks will be on constitutional matters but OL wants dialogue on other “concerns”

President Dr Irfaan Ali and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

With President Dr Irfaan Ali and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton scheduled to meet in two weeks, the two sides will now have to set the agenda for that upcoming and highly-anticipated engagement.

President Ali told reporters on Wednesday that the meeting would focus on constitutional matters such as the appointments of various service commissions.

“My intention is to meet with the Leader of the Opposition within two weeks. You know, there are a number of matters, constitutional matters, that has to be discussed, so those are the matters that will primarily be at the table,” the Guyanese Head of State explained.

But Norton contended during a press conference today that he wants to have discussions with President Ali on other issues, such as good governance.

“Meetings with the President, should they occur, must extend beyond the appointment of commissioners and judges. Meetings must also discuss Opposition’s concerns about good governance,” Norton expressed.

“As I understand, the Opposition is to represent the cause of the people of Guyana and in representing them, there will be constitutional matters and there will be matters that are not stated in the constitution as a constitutional issue to be determined by the President and the Opposition Leader. And I will push for both because I believe you cannot deal with one and not deal with the other and it is my sincere hope that good sense be prevailed and we attempt to deal with the issues in society in a holistic way,” the Opposition Leader added.

This will be the first meeting between President Ali and the Opposition Leader since his assumption to office in August 2020.

During the period when APNU’s Joseph Harmon had occupied the post of Opposition Leader, President Ali had made it clear that he will facilitate a meeting when the Opposition once it gives up the narrative that the PPP/C Administration is not legitimate.

“Mr Harmon has consistently repeated, since our last conversation, the same narrative about his feelings about the Government. So that hasn’t changed…there’s no compromise on that. But as I said in that engagement, there must be an acknowledgement that you’re dealing with a partner who, one, has great clarity in his own head that he’s dealing with someone he respects as the Government and two, he acknowledges as the Government…what I would say is that Mr Harmon needs to get off this narrative that he’s comforted himself with for far too long, face the reality and act in a manner that is befitting the citizens of Guyana and puts Guyana and the people first. And if he does so, he will immediately correct his statements,” President Ali had told reporters in in April 2021.

As recently at February 2022, Norton had also refused to state his party’s recognition of the PPP/C as a legitimate government. In fact, Norton contended that only the election petition case will determine whether the present government is legitimate.

The recount of the 2020 General and Regional Elections showed the PPP/C winning the elections with 233,336 votes. At that time, caretaker President David Granger, on August 2, 2020, conceded defeat, stating that his party’s concerns would be filed in an elections petition.

Earlier this year, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and Prime Minister, Retired Brigadier Mark Phillips expressed that the government is willing to meet with the new Opposition Leader in the interest of the country.

“We are ready to work with whoever is appointed or elected Leader of the Opposition in the interest of Guyana…what we ask in return is for the new Leader of the Opposition to accept the legitimacy of our government. This is a government that was elected by the people of Guyana,” PM Phillips had declared in February 2022.