After prolonged delays, People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Leader Aubrey Norton and former party Chairperson Volda Lawrence were this afternoon sworn-in as A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs).
The swearing in was conducted at today’s sitting of the National Assembly by Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Issacs. In his preamble before the swearing in, Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir announced that both names have since been extracted from the APNU/AFC List of Candidates.
Both Norton and Lawrence took their seats in the front rows of the National Assembly.
Norton and Lawrence will be filling the seats that were vacated following the resignations of former Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon and former Education Minister under the coalition Government, Nicolette Henry.
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. 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.
The PNC executive had already made it clear that it wanted Norton to become the next Opposition Leader.
Riding on that mandate from the PNC faction of the APNU/AFC, Norton is already preparing to take up the new role and during a press conference on Tuesday, said he was of the view that the party must make more use of the Freedom of Information Act.
“There are a number of priorities, but I do not want to signal almost immediately what it is I intend to do. I am going to meet with all our Members of Parliament shortly, and the ideas I have, we will then discuss together and work a way forward,” he said.
“Mind you, it’s not solely the Leader of the Opposition; it has to be a collective effort in which all persons will contribute. But I do believe that we need to make more use of the Freedom of Information Act,” Norton said.
He was also asked whether there would be any changes to the Opposition parliamentary side, once he was appointed as Opposition Leader, such as persons being recalled. According to him, while there would certainly be portfolio changes, he has not considered recalling anyone.
“I don’t know what you mean. If you’re talking about changes in terms of portfolios, yes. There have to be, because at least two persons would have left. And it seems self-evident to me that there will have to be changes,” he said.
“The question of recall is not something that I’ve put in my head and will determine willy-nilly in advance. Recall is, as I understand it, based on the party’s lack of confidence in someone. If that situation arises, then as a party we will deal with it,” Norton explained.
He also spoke about what factors were involved in the selection of Lawrence, who did not contest the PNC election in December, to accompany him to Parliament. Lawrence, who served as Public Health Minister and Social Services Minister under the former APNU/AFC Government, is an accountant by profession.
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.