APNU, AFC to meet on leadership squabble today

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L-R: Joseph Harmon and Aubrey Norton

Leaders of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance For Change (AFC) are set to meet today to iron out issues surrounding the post of Opposition Leader. This was confirmed by the Leader of the AFC, Khemraj Ramjattan, during a telephone interview on Sunday.

“We will be having a private meeting to determine the way forward on the issue… no one is certain of the outcome but the public will be made known of the decision once one is taken,” Ramjattan noted.

The meeting, he noted, will be held on mutual ground and will see the relevant persons attending. He did not divulge any additional information on the issue.

However, with the meeting set for today, People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Leader Aubrey Norton has made it clear that he is prepared to take up the Opposition Leader role.
A previous report stated that Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader Khemraj Ramjattan was supposed to meet with incumbent Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon and former President David Granger, who is the Representative of the List of candidates.

While Norton is backed by the Executive of the PNC, the largest party in the coalition, to take up the mantle of Leader of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) parliamentary Opposition and Representative of the List, Harmon and Granger have so far not relinquished those positions.

In an interview with this publication on Sunday, Norton was tight-lipped about the meeting but held out that he is psychologically prepared to take up the post.

“I would assume that it’s a role that I have the relevant competence to perform,” Norton explained. When it comes to the PNC’s next move to have the role transferred to him, he said the party would meet and the press informed in due time.

The PNC Central Executive Committee (CEC) wants Norton, who was elected leader of the party in December, to sit in the National Assembly and hold the post of the country’s Opposition Leader, replacing Harmon. Harmon was appointed to that constitutional position by Representative of the List, Granger.

The PNC also wants Granger’s position as Head of the List replaced by Norton. During a press conference last week, Norton had said that engagements are still ongoing within the party and that Granger will at some point join the discussions.

Asked if any timeline has been set for the conclusion of these discussions, Norton responded in the negative. When pressed for more information, the PNC Leader admitted that Granger has since been engaged on these matters.

“The Leader of the List was engaged and there will be continuous engagement,” Norton explained.

However, he added that, “As far as I know, the discussions involve the Leader of the PNC and the Leader of the Opposition. As far as I know from Mr Granger, the former leader of the party has decided that he will engage but he wants to see the outcome of this first phase of discussion.”

Harmon, who lost his bid for the PNCR leadership to Norton, has since insisted that he should remain Opposition Leader. Harmon was also not re-elected to the PNC’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) – the highest decision-making body of the party.

When asked if Harmon was co-opted to the CEC, Norton expressed “anybody that we have co-opted, we have informed the press.” Unlike the last time Harmon was co-opted in 2020, the PNC has not released any statement regarding Harmon becoming a co-opt member of the CEC.

The APNU has already issued a statement noting that “the members of A Partnership for National Unity have had no reason to question the abilities of David Granger and Khemraj Ramjattan as Head and Deputy Head of the List of the APNU/AFC, we have had no reason to question the leadership of Joseph Harmon as Leader of the Opposition and we have had no reasons to question the abilities of any Member of Parliament. While we are yet to meet with the new PNCR Leader Mr Aubrey Norton, we are expecting to have a good working relationship with him as we’ve had with former President David Granger.”

Ramjattan, who is Deputy of the List, has meanwhile previously made it clear that the established procedures must be followed before the Leader of the Opposition or Representative of the List of the APNU/AFC Coalition can be changed.