Figueira questions if handshake with Pres. Ali vexed Norton, as PNC strips him of portfolio

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
MP Jermaine Figueira shaking President Dr Irfaan Ali’s hand during a recent event in Linden, Region Ten

Opposition Member of Parliament Jermaine Figueira has been stripped of certain parliamentary portfolios by his party, the Peoples National Congress (PNC), leaving him to question whether his handshake with President Dr Irfaan Ali has vexed Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton.

Figueira, who serves as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and is the PNC’s Region Ten (Upper Demerara-Berbice) representative, has since written to members of the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) on the issue.

In the letter, he expressed that he was shocked to have learnt from Norton himself, at a recent meeting of parliamentarians, that he would no longer hold the portfolio of Culture, Youth and Sports, which he shadowed for the past four budgets.

“…and after I have been preparing for the upcoming presentations in a matter of days.There was no consultation done and the forced reasons given in my respectful view, were most nonsensical, and without merit,” Figueira expressed in the correspondent, which was seen by this publication.

“I questioned if this decision/action of me being penalized/ victimized is a result of my forthright attitude to speak my truth and being a free thinker and not a conformist, or was it because I disagreed with the Leader and not the Party’s position of not shaking the President’s hand policy in this modern era of political and diplomatic engagements,” the parliamentarian questioned.

Figueira argued that, “I strongly believe if it was on a meritorious comparative of performance as a benchmark used to inform such a decision by the Leader and moreover the collective leadership of this CEC, such a decision would not have been made.”

“…this unmeritorious and unwise decision does not auger well for a party that boasts of being democratic and supportive of young people…I can’t help but feel that my value and contributions towards this Party are not appreciated by the Leader and is taken for granted by how I was treated by him.”

“The level of disrespect which was accorded me by the Leader of this party was not warranted,” he added.

A Central Executive Member himself, Figueira detailed in his letter how he has worked tirelessly in the interest of the party and its supporters.

“As a Central Executive member, Chairman of the party’s strongest support base, Region Ten, a Member of Parliament, and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues to defend our stewardship in government, which at times is very difficult…,” the letter outlined.

The young politician highlighted that in Region Ten, he would conduct a number of social work including feeding the elderly and distributing financial grants to empower businesses.

In fact, he pointed out that just in December 2023, his team consisting of regional councillors and others distributed in excess of 5000 toys, several hundred footwear and bicycles to thousands of children from Region Ten.

“All these initiatives are done even when the party has not been able to do same as a whole or fellow MPs individually. The party leader says my doings are not political work, its social work. Wow! Addressing the needs of people is not political work? Ok!,” Figueira outlined in his letter.

He further explained that through his interventions at the government level, he has brought relief to many of his constituents.

“For example, I would have engaged both Ministers of Public Works when the Region’s budgetary allocations didn’t cater for several roads to be done in some communities, for it to be done and it was. Additionally, I would have spoken to the Ministers of Housing and have taken it further by writing directly to the President several months ago, bringing to his attention the dire need for several communities birthed out of squatting which the coalition government started to address, for thousands of people to get titles to the lands on which they have built their homes and living for many years with out ownership of the land. He has publicly committed to addressing this need and I have begun to engage those communities residents to expect this benefit from my representations for them as I’m suppose to do as their representative.”

He added that, “many of the small contractors in Region Ten, I would have assisted in them being compliant and made representation for them to gain contracts and some have, added to that, families having access to cash grants, public assistance, health assistance for cancer and dialysis patients and residents children gaining scholarships among other levels of representation, I have successfully made for the people of my Region without making it public.”

Against this backdrop, Figueira questioned, “Which other MP has been able to consistently find funding for a sustained and consistent program? Which other MP or political arm of APNU has been able to bring the level of social or political relief to their constituents as I have?”

“Comrades, I put it to you, if the funding is quantified what I and my organisation have spent on programs, relief and events, it would be found that the party as a whole has not made such contributions in years.  The party and opposition is the net benefactor of all my efforts.”

Figueira has since appealed to the Central Executive Committee to review the decision made by Norton and have it reversed.