OPPOSITION Leader, Aubrey Norton appears to be in campaign mood and this cannot be more evident at his recent rally held at the Burnham Basket Ball Court, Middle Street, Georgetown.
The Opposition Leader, addressing a sizable gathering, many of whom were bussed in from various parts of the country, used his speaking time to make a number of claims, some of which would be dismissed even by school boys, as bizarre.
From all that he said, two things stood out. The first was his defence of his refusal to shake the President’s hand and second, the claim that the Coalition would win the next regional and general elections with a clean voters’ list.
His refusal to shake the President’s hand is a first from an Opposition Leader in Guyana. Even during the period of rigged elections in Guyana, then Opposition Leader, Dr Cheddi Jagan, never shied away from shaking the hands of Forbes Burnham and Desmond Hoyte, both of whom whose party, the People’s National Congress (PNC) had illegitimately occupied the seat of power for close to three decades. In fact, Dr Jagan had embraced Burnham when Guyana became an Independent nation on the night of May 26, 1966.
It is in this light that the current public posture exhibited by the Opposition Leader comes across as immature and portrays him as a person who lacks diplomacy and the wherewithal to skillfully deal with issues that he perceives as grievances or matters of concerns to his party.
Naturally, many expect better from the Opposition Leader but his behaviours should not come as a great surprise to all. Norton, before becoming Opposition Leader, as a leading player in the PNC, gained a formidable reputation as a grassroots organiser. The role of the PNC during post-election unrest and other unsavoury events is well known. His refusal to engage in a basic exchange of pleasantry with the President strongly indicates that he has not graduated from the politics of organising the grassroots to carving out a character befitting of a national leader.
His explanation that he will not shake the hand of his ‘oppressor’ is also both outlandish and out of place and from all appearances is an upgrade of his initial claim that the President had ‘bullied’ him into a handshake at a recent function held at the British High Commission.
It would be instructive for Norton to look more inwards to see who the ‘oppressors’ are. It was during the Coalition’s tenure in government that more than 70,000 Guyanese lost their jobs, some of whom were supporters of the Coalition. In fact, the situation was so dire that even a member of the Coalition compelled by his conscience, broke ranks and voted in support of the 2018 no-confidence motion that eventually saw its removal from power.
The word ‘eventually’ is used because the Coalition used every crooked trick it conceived or conjured up to cling to power for over two years after the no-confidence motion was legitimately passed against them.
What Norton should realise is that the Coalition lost the 2020 general and regional elections with a clean list in an elections that was certified by the international community as free and fair.
It should be noted that the Coalition had repeatedly attacked the list after the no-confidence vote in their bid to delay the elections as long as possible and had employ a similar strategy to derail the recount of votes of the 2020 elections that was supervised by CARICOM.
During the recount process, the Coalition made a number of claims, including votes from dead persons and persons who migrated. However, the CARICOM team, which the Coalition had described as the ‘most competent’ interlocutor, had roundly dismissed these claims as a “fishing expedition” and time-wasting exercise.
A few things should be noted about the Coalition after the 2015 general and regional elections. Since those elections, the AFC has been literally swallowed by the PNC, the most dominant party in the Coalition. The AFC is also contemplating a divorce from the Coalition and given the treatment it received from the PNC while in the Coalition, it is unfathomable that any new and promising political party will want to join the Coalition, at least, in the near future. The PNC has never won a general and regional election legitimately and does not have the numbers to gain political power on its own.
It will therefore be better for Norton to objectively criticise the government but also work with the government in the interest of Guyana. His current behaviour is the wrong approach. He appears to possess the qualities that will destine him to be a long-term Opposition Leader and that is if his party would want him to be there.