Guyana’s Opposition legislators walked out of the National Assembly on Monday after the Speaker, Manzoor Nadir shot down an attempt by Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton, to seek parliamentary approval for a clean voters list.
“For a matter to qualify under this particular item, the issue of definite, urgent public importance are necessary and it’s an issue also that’s upcoming and I consider this motion at this time not of the urgency that requires this debate so I would be unable to allow the motion to proceed further than this,” Nadir said.
Following the ruling, the opposition members of the coalition, A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) walked out of the building not staying for the debate on several pieces of legislation including the one that establishes the Constitutional Reform Commission (CRC).
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Norton in his motion had referred to the recommendations by several observer missions that steps be taken to cleanse the voters’ list.
He said while Guyana has an estimated population of 750,000, the voters’ list contains 682,000 names, and United States Homeland Security statistics show that more than 54,000 persons have migrated to the US over the past five years.
“That suggests that it cannot be a credible list,” Norton said, adding “it should be obvious to most that the list has to be cleaned”.
There have been repeated calls for this clean voters’ list ahead of next year’s Local Government Elections (LGE) and Monday’s move was the latest by the APNU+AFC to force the government into giving into demands for the voters list to be cleansed of the names of dead persons and migrants.
In the absence of the opposition, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall SC moved the second reading of the Constitutional Reform Commission Bill 2022 indicating that constitutional reform is a fundamental process for an evolving society that requires widespread participation- from the country’s political leadership but also the general citizenry.
He told legislators that constitutional reform has been a “platform promise” of all political parties that contested the 2020 regional and general elections.
“As I speak, I am speaking to empty benches on the other side,” Nandlall said, noting that this is particularly worrying given that constitutional reform efforts require the support of two-thirds of the National Assembly or in some cases, a referendum.
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