PNCR member Aubrey Norton is set to fill the vacancy of commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commis-sion (Gecom), a move which is expected to further strain relations between APNU and the AFC, sources said yesterday.
Stabroek News was reliably informed that Norton is the candidate supported by APNU while the AFC had put forward David Patterson as its candidate. Norton’s name is to be submitted by Opposition Leader David Granger. It was believed that the smaller party should have been allowed its nominee on the commission instead of the body being dominated by nominees from only the PNCR and the PPP/C.
“This development is going to put further strain on the relation between the two parties,” a source told Stabroek News yesterday.
There has been tension between the two parties since mid last week when APNU refused to support a proposed budget cut put forward by the AFC -which would have affected some contract workers in three ministries -and entered its own negotiations with President Donald Ramotar and other government officials. The AFC was unaware of such a meeting and its leader Khemraj Ramjattan in an internal memo to his executives had said he felt “betrayed” by the latest developments.
On Saturday, Granger – also APNU’s Leader – had told Stabroek News that APNU had completed consultations with the AFC on filling the vacancy and that they had settled on a person to take up the position left vacant after the death of Robert Williams.
“I have completed my consultations and we hope an announcement could be made [shortly],” Granger had said. “We spoke with the AFC and they have made a recommendation,” he had added but was not prepared to reveal the name.
This latest move by APNU is seen as some consolation for Norton who was surprisingly left out of parliament by the coalition-a situation that had caused some disquiet especially among Lindeners who had felt that the former parliamentarian should have maintained his seat in the House.
Sources had said last year that PNCR Leader Robert Corbin had imposed his will on the selection process for APNU candidates entering Parliament and because of this Norton was not considered for the list on the grounds that he had already served two terms.
APNU supporters had felt that Norton deserved a place in Parliament because of the outreach work that he has done particularly in Linden during the general elections campaign.
Norton has had a history of run-ins with the Leader of the PNCR Corbin.
As recent as last March there was another public spat between the former PNCR general secretary and the party with him accusing Corbin of not adequately addressing several issues he raised at the party’s last General Council including the alleged forging by a party executive of a document for a district election over a year ago.
APNU deputy leader Dr Rupert Roopnaraine had told Stabroek News on Saturday that Granger had solicited recommendations from other organisations and bodies so as to have as wide a scope as possible for a suitable candidate on the commission. He had said the intent is to find someone who is capable, with a grasp of the issues and who will be professional.
“[Granger] is attaching a lot more importance to these aspects [of the choice] rather than on political affiliations,” said Roopnaraine.
AFC’s Executive Member Khemraj Ramjattan had expressed disappointment that Granger has not yet made an announcement of the person selected. He noted that the PPP/C had already filled the vacancy left by the resignation of Moen McDoom with attorney Jaya Manickchand.
“The leader of the opposition did indicate to me that he wanted my recommendation. He consulted with us and we recommended David Patterson,” he said, while noting that Granger told him he wanted to consult with other bodies. “David [Patterson] suits the spot. He has been our point man on Gecom,” Ramjattan said.
On March 29, APNU announced that it was pressing ahead with the replacement of Williams even though it continues to press for reforms of Gecom, saying that the country cannot go into another election with Gecom as it is currently constituted.
In March, the AFC and APNU had commenced discussions on the vacancy. APNU executive Joseph Harmon had said whether the vacancy on Gecom is filled or not, it would not change what the party has been saying about the need to revamp the entity, as has been recommended by the various observer missions that came for the 2011 general and regional elections.
But Harmon made the point that it would not be in the best interest to leave the seat vacant, even with the many concerns, since decisions could be taken without the opposition being properly represented there. He said that there is a need to maintain the status quo until such time as the recommended changes have been put in place.
It has been suggested that the AFC’s candidate should have been allowed to fill the vacancy since Williams had been nominated by The United Force (TUF) on the commission even though that party had only one seat in Parliament compared to the AFC’s seven.