The Leader of the Opposition Aubrey Norton today said he is prepared to hold talks with President Irfaan Ali on a number of Constitutional matters, though not optimistic that those talks will take place anytime soon given the Government’s posture towards the Opposition.
Last week, the US Ambassador expressed a willingness to broker talks between the two leaders, but both the President and Vice President have brushed aside that suggestion.
Today, Norton said he is open to the proposal, but strongly believes that the Guyanese should be able to solve their own problems.
“I believe Guyana is a sovereign country, and welcome the overtures of the United States, we are always glad when people are showing an interest in Guyana and therefore, we have no problem with the officer. But I believe the onus is on Guyanese to solve Guyanese problems,” the Opposition Leader reasoned.
Citing an example of the President’s reluctance to meet with him, the Opposition Leader said in June 2022 he wrote the President signaling his support of the confirmation of Justice Yonette Cummings as the Chancellor of the Judiciary and Justice Roxane George as the country’s Chief Justice.
He said the response was arrogant.
“He said in his response, that he decides the time and place when everything should occur. I don’t see the need for me to be writing the president on these matters when the president has exuded an arrogance that suggest that he is not propitiously disposed to any initiative outside of what they think,” he said.
President Ali and the Opposition Leader have not held official talks in a more than a year.
In May, 2022, they met for the first time to discuss a number of Constitutional and statutory appointments. However, the relationship went downhill weeks later after a planned meeting between the two leaders fell through.
The situation further deteriorated after the Opposition Leader refused to shake the hands of the President at an event, telling reporters that he will not shake hands with his “oppressors.”
But today, the Opposition Leader, though Guyanese are still oppressed, he shook the hands of the President at an event back in April while the two greeted each other.
“Anyone who was at that function for the Seventh Day Adventist Church would know that I shook his hands, and I didn’t shake it hands because he ended the oppression, I shook his hands because at the time, I though the forum was a forum that sought to bring us together and it was the right thing to do. So, I consider it disingenuous when the President is still ranting and raving about a shake hand,” Norton clarified.
Chairman of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Shurwayne Holder said it is clear that the Government is not interested in advancing talks with the Opposition.
For his part, he said while the Opposition has noted the US Government’s willingness to intervene in the gridlock, he is not optimistic that the matter will be addressed.
“We entertain no hope that such engagements at any level would deliver benefits given the PPP obsession with seeking total one-party domination and control. While many look to the President-Leader of the Opposition summits as the only mechanism for engagements, several other forums exist for interparty discussions and agreement, such as the National Assembly, Regional and Local Government Councils, state boards and commissions and joint task forces,” MP Holder said.
The PNC Chairman said the Government has shown no interest in engaging the Opposition, but has chosen to sideline the main opposition party.