Representative of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change List of Candidates, David Granger has asked the leaders of the two coalition partners, APNU’s Chairman Aubrey Norton and AFC’s Leader Khemraj Ramjattan, to have meaning consultations on filling the two Opposition seats that are currently vacant in Parliament.
A statement on Friday disclosed that Granger, former President and Leader of APNU, wrote the two coalition leaders after receiving two letters from Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, on the vacancies in the Opposition’s side of the House.
“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 statement noted.
These seats became vacant following the resignation of former Opposition Leader Joseph 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.
“The Representative of the List has since written to Mr Aubrey Norton, Chairman of A Partnership of National Unity and Mr Khemraj Ramjattan, Leader of the Alliance For Change, requesting their meaningful consultations on the nominations of candidates to fill the vacancies,” the missive detailed.
Moreover, it was noted that Granger has since informed the Chief Election Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Vishnu Persaud, of the present development as well.
The procedure requires the representative to inform the Chief Election Officer of two names to be extracted from the party’s List of Candidates to be sworn in as Members of Parliament.
But according to Friday’s missive, Granger has followed and acted in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana and the Representation of the People Act (RoPA) with regard to the resignation and replacement of members to the National Assembly “at all material times”.
The People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), which is the leading party in the APNU/AFC coalition, has already insisted that its Leader, Aubrey Norton, would be appointed as the new Opposition Leader. Therefore, it is likely that Norton would be appointed to one of the two Opposition vacancies in the National Assembly.
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.
Though he stepped down as leader of Opposition, Harmon had indicated that he would remain a Member of Parliament.
But earlier this month, he also announced his “intention to resign” from the National Assembly and formally did so about two weeks later.
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.
When the Opposition Leader post became vacant earlier this year, the joinder list representative in the National Assembly, LJP Leader Lennox Shuman, had indicated that he would not be participating the process to elect someone to that position.
At a press conference earlier this month, PNC Chairman Shurwayne Holder disclosed that, “The party had made a decision that the party leader will become the leader of the Opposition… We had consultations with APNU and AFC. As far as I am concerned, that’s a done deal”.
In addition to being Opposition Leader, Norton also has a mandate from the PNC Executive to take over Granger’s role as Representative of the List. AFC’s Ramjattan is the Deputy Head of the List.
But the former PNC leader is yet to step down as Head of the List, however, he has already given chairmanship of the APNU to Norton – another instruction from the new PNC Executive.
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 a while before the new Opposition Leader is appointed.
“We may be very far away from getting a leader of the Opposition. Because the leader of the Opposition, as you may know, is elected by the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is when the Opposition sits, they elect a leader from amongst themselves but you don’t have right now the full complement of the Opposition,” Nandlall said in this week’s edition of his weekly programme – Issues In The News.