The replacement for Ms Deborah Backer, arguably one of APNU’s best members of parliament, will be another litmus test of Mr David Granger’s management style and quality of leadership.
These are Ms Backer’s stats: PNCR representative in APNU; former shadow Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs minister (at the time of her resignation she held the latter) distinguishing herself in both; female; Deputy Speaker; and more than a decade of parliamentary experience and knowledge of its Standing Orders, and cut and thrust techniques.
Looking at these stats the names which come readily to mind are a) Ms Clarissa Riehl, who has the identical stats with the exception of shadowing Home Affairs; b) Mr Aubrey Norton, who was a senior Foreign Service Officer during the PNC administration, PNC representative on the APNU List, and has years of parliamentary experience, knowledge of its Standing Orders and cut and thrust techniques; and c) Mr Cammie Ramsaroop, PNC representative on the APNU list, Leader of the List, decades of parliamentary experience, knowledge of its Standing Orders and cut and thrust techniques, and who has held senior cabinet portfolios.
With two years before constitutionally due national elections and in order to hold the PPP administration accountable for ensuring good governance in the legislature and executive, APNU is expected to find a suitable replacement. Among the first things Mr Granger is expected to factor in in determining Ms Backer’s replacement is the ability to deliver from day one or, as they say, hit the ground running. There is no time to await a learning curve when key issues such as the anti-money laundering Bill and the National Budget are coming up shortly for debate and passage.
With a slim opposition majority there is no room for ignorance of the parliamentary rudiments, a lack of debating skills and a repeat of the inexcusable Volda Lawrence fiasco in relation to the non-vote on the Specialty Hospital.
Some may say that Ms Backer’s shadow ministerial portfolio could be re-assigned to another. This would be making a serious mistake. This portfolio requires commitment, understanding of diplomatic and global nuances; Guyana’s geopolitical position; the border controversy and dispute; and acquaintance with international conventions, laws, covenants and agreements, etc. It requires a singular focus and dedication. It is a tall order to fulfil and even though there is much to be desired in the current Foreign Affairs Minister she is likely to dwarf any unsuitable opposition shadow appointee. Guyanese cannot afford to have such level of naivety on both sides of the parliamentary benches.
The APNU needs to replace Ms Backer with someone of similar ability, and Guyana needs someone of similar ability to halt the political excesses and bring about the much desired accountable government.
Here’s wishing Ms Backer a speedy recovery.