Following the resignation of two APNU/AFC Members of Parliament, Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, has written to Head of the Coalition party’s List of Candidates, David Granger, to commence the process of filling the vacancies, which would see the appointment of a new Leader of the Opposition.
Former Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon has officially resigned as an APNU/AFC Member of Parliament since March 15, while the Coalition’s Nicolette Henry’s resignation takes effect from today, March 31, 2022.
Meanwhile, Henry, who served as Education Minister under the David Granger administration, announced her resignation as a Parliamentarian last month, to make way for Norton to join the National Assembly and be appointed Opposition Leader.
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.
PNC Leader Aubrey Norton
According to Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, the House Speaker is in the process of writing Granger to start the process of appointing the two new MPs.
“[Tuesday] I vetted the letter…and the Speaker should’ve signed it… I believe it was signed and dispatched to Mr Granger… Granger would have to write to the Chief Elections Officer, giving him the two names to be extracted from the list,” the clerk explained.
When asked, Isaacs indicated that there is no timeline within which this needs to be done.
Meanwhile, Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM), Vishnu Persaud, when contacted on Wednesday, indicated that he is yet to receive any correspondence from Granger requesting him to extract two new names from the Opposition’s List.
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 the 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.
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 that it might be a while before the new Opposition Leader is appointed.
Attorney General & Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall SC
“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 among themselves; but you don’t have, right now, the full complement of the Opposition,” Nandlall stated.
The APNU/AFC Coalition 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 in the process to elect someone to the position of Leader of the Opposition.
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 Opposition Leader, Norton also has a mandate from the PNC Executive to take up the position of Representative of the List of Candidates for APNU/AFC – a position which is currently held by Granger, with AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan as the deputy.
Neither Harmon nor Granger was elected to the Central Executive Committee of the party – the highest decision-making body of the PNC.
At that press conference earlier this month, it was revealed that Granger has already been asked to extract Norton’s name from the list for entry into Parliament.