APNU not being consulted by PNCR on vacant Parliament seats – Opposition MP

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…says request for meeting ignored

Despite the importance of nominating someone to fill the vacant seats in the Opposition camp and it belonging to a coalition of parties, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) is yet to meet with its coalition partners on choosing someone to fill the vacant Parliament seats.

This is according to Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, who heads the Guyana Nation Builders Movement (GNBM) party that joined the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) coalition last year.

Reports in sections of the media indicate that as per a request made by Granger as Representative of the APNU/AFC List of Candidates, Norton met with AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan on Friday to discuss who to nominate to fill the vacant seats.

On her social media page, Sarabo-Halley took issue to persons who were framing the reported nominations of PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton and Volda Lawrence to the vacant Parliament seats, as an “APNU” decision. According to her, APNU has not been meeting regularly and thus could not have made any such decision.

“Let’s make something very clear… The APNU has not nominated anybody. This nonsense has to stop. If the PNC has made a decision, then the PNC has made a decision. The two vacant seats belong to the PNC and so they have a right to choose who they want to replace the two persons that resigned.”

“However, time and time again someone keeps putting out statements as though the APNU has met and made decisions. I have asked for meetings to discuss matters and have been met with silence,” Sarabo-Halley said.

According to her, APNU has not met since January 25, 2022, when the chairmanship of David Granger, as well as the General Secretary position, came to an end. At the time, both Granger and Joseph Harmon had stepped down from those respective positions – in the case of Granger, with immediate effect.

“So, I am not sure who has been sending out letters and making statements on behalf of the APNU,” Sarabo-Halley further said. Sarabo-Halley’s revelation of APNU not being consulted would be particularly surprising, since there are reports that Norton has consulted with the Alliance For Change (AFC), a party that does not belong within APNU, on the issue.

It has been reported that Norton and Lawrence, herself a former parliamentarian and Minister of Public Health under the Granger Administration, have been nominated to fill the vacant seats. These seats became vacant following the resignation of former Opposition Leader Harmon, who officially resigned as an APNU/AFC Member of Parliament since March 15, and former Education Minister under Granger’s coalition Government, Nicolette Henry, whose resignation took effect on March 31, 2022.

Norton and Ramjattan are now expected to write Granger, formally informing him of the meetings and the names which have been decided on, after which Granger is expected to write Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Vishnu Persaud – all part of the process of extracting those names from the list of candidates so they can be sworn in as MPs.

A statement on Friday had said that “The Representative of the List can take no further action until the APNU Chairman and AFC leader conduct their consultations and submit their nominations. He now awaits the names of the two candidates who will fill the vacant seats before informing the Chief Elections Officer”.

The PNCR, which is the leading party in the APNU/AFC coalition, has already insisted that Norton should be appointed as the new Opposition Leader. There has been no Opposition Leader in the National Assembly since Harmon resigned from the post on January 26 this year following mounting pressure from the new PNC Executive.

Harmon had contested for leadership of the PNC but lost to Norton who won by a landslide victory. Granger, who was the immediate past leader of the PNCR, did not contest for re-election. In fact, neither Harmon nor Granger was elected to the Central Executive Committee of the party – the highest decision-making body of the PNC.

The APNU/AFC Opposition accounts for 31 of the 32-seat parliamentary Opposition, while the joinder list comprising of A New and United Guyana (ANUG), the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and The New Movement (TNM) occupies the remaining seat. The governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) holds a one-seat majority in the 65-seat House, having won 33 seats.

While the Dr Irfaan Ali-led Government has already indicated its willingness to meet and work with the new Opposition Leader, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall has expressed, however, that it might be a while before the new Opposition Leader is appointed.