‘I will honour all my responsibilities’ – Aubrey Norton becomes Opposition Leader

The new cohort of Opposition Parliamentarians alongside their new leader, Aubrey Norton

Leader of the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNC/R) has officially been appointed as the country’s newest Opposition Leader, replacing Joseph Harmon who only served in that capacity for less than two years.

“I feel good to be chosen, not only to represent our people but to be Leader of the Opposition at this stage,” Norton told reporters today following his appointment.

He along with former PNC Chair Volda Lawrence were earlier today sworn-in as new parliamentarians following the controversial resignations of Harmon and former Education Minister Nicolette Henry.

“There are a number of priorities, the first priority has to be to ensure we hold the government accountable, to ensure we scrutinise what the government is doing, and to ensure we go out into the villages and communities and understand the concerns of the people and to represent them,” Norton said when asked about his top priorities in the new position.

“We are elected to represent the people, scrunitse the government, push for transparency, ensure accountability, we are going to do just that,” he added.

Asked if he will push for an engagement with President Dr Irfaan Ali and his government, Norton expressed, “in keeping with the constitution, I will honour all the responsibilities of the Leader of the Opposition.”

Prime Minister Mark Phillips has already made it clear that the government is ready to work with the new Opposition Leader, expressing during his contribution to the 2022 budget debates that, “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.

Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo had also revealed that the Head of State is hoping to meet soon with the new Opposition Leader on the reinstation of a number of constitutional service commissions.

Harmon, who had initially stepped down as Opposition Leader on January 26 this year following mounting pressure from the new PNC Executive, had initially planned to remain an MP, but last month announced his resignation from the House.

Harmon had contested for leadership of the PNC, but lost to Norton who won by a landslide victory. David 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 PNC – the highest decision-making body of the party.

Lawrence has been accused of electoral fraud, and has since been charged following the March 2020 elections. It is alleged that on March 5, 2020, with intent to defraud, Lawrence uttered a report purporting to be a true declaration of all votes cast in District Four for the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, knowing same to be forged.

The APNU/AFC Opposition accounts for 31 of the 32-seat parliamentary Opposition, while the joinder list, comprising 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.