“I feel good” – Norton says after selected Opposition Leader but talks up “resort to political action”
Aubrey Norton became the country’s Opposition Leader on Wednesday, hours after he was sworn in as a Member of Parliament (MP) but four months after he became Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R) and received the nod of the party membership to occupy the post.
“I feel good,” he said as he engaged members of the media who he moments before turned down for a comment.
Norton, who remained tipped for the post in recent months when it seemed his entrance into Parliament was being frustrated by members of his own party, said on Wednesday that he was not only happy to be chosen for Parliament but also selected as Leader of the Opposition.
Norton, who heads the party that makes up the largest component of the APNU+AFC opposition, was selected by a majority to be the Opposition Leader at a meeting with all opposition MPs convened by Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir.
Also taking the Oath of Office as an MP on Wednesday was former Health Minister Volda Lawrence who is facing several charges related to electoral fraud in the courts presently.
She too said it was a good feeling to be back.
Norton and Lawrence are replacements for Nicolette Henry and Joseph Harmon, who both resigned from the National Assembly.
Harmon became Opposition Leader after the results of the 2020 elections were declared but resigned in February 2022 from the post under immense pressure to do so.
Norton, who last weekend came in for rebuke over false claims he made during an outreach in Linden, Region Ten said his first priority will be to hold the government accountable.
“We have to ensure we scrutinise the government,” he said.
Ask whether he intends to meet with President Irfaan Ali anytime soon, Norton assured reporters that he will honour all his responsibilities as Opposition Leader in keeping with the Constitution of Guyana.
The Constitution mandates consultations between the President and Opposition Leader on key appointments.
Norton glossed over questions on changes to the portfolio of Opposition members since Henry resigned holding the Shadow Education Minister and Lawrence being propped up as having accounting and finance expertise.
There is speculation that Lawrence will replace Juretha Fernandes as the Shadow Finance Minister and someone will be removed from the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to make space for her.
Norton would not comment on those specifics; he said when the time is right those announcements will be made.
The New Leader of the Opposition says he also intends to engage the Speaker in dialogue to ensure he accords the opposition fairness. If that doesn’t work, he will “resort to political action.”
Norton, during his run for leader of the PNC/R had been called out by his own party members for his bullying and thuggish behaviour, characteristics he has denied embodying.
“He [the Speaker] has to be held accountable… if parliamentary options fail then extra-parliamentary action will be taken,” Norton added.
Lawrence, who in December 2021 said she was taking a back seat in politics and turned down nominations to contest in the party’s elections said her decision to return was influenced by her party’s call.
Lawrence had said then that she doesn’t know what the future holds but at that time there is no interest to serve on the Central Executive Committee of the PNC/R – the largest decision-making body of the party – or even returning to the National Assembly.