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From all appearances it seemed as if the PNC’s recent Congress had ended on a positive note and that the party had made giant steps towards healing the differences which had emerged in the wake of the Coalition’s loss of power. But, as we go to press, a new public bickering has emerged surrounding the positions of Opposition leader in the National Assembly and the Representative of the List. It is not a new issue; it raised its head during the campaign for the party’s leadership. At that point Mr. Joseph Harmon, the current holder of the position was emphatic that the party leader should also be its leader in the Assembly, but after losing the race to Aubrey Norton, he seemed to have changed his mind and floated the idea that the two positions should be separated. Norton on the other hand, however, appeared to have left the matter in the hands of the party’s leadership.
It appears that at the party’s recent executive meeting, it was agreed that Mr. Norton should assume both the position of opposition leader in the National Assembly and Representative of the List. Shortly after Norton made that announcement and indicated that he was due to meet with Mr. Harmon within the week, press statements were released by Harmon in his official capacity as LOO and also another one in the name of the APNU stating that no single party could unilaterally decide what happens in the APNU. It was the same argument that was made by the outgoing PNC’s General Secretary when her party had advised the then leader not to admit two new parties to the APNU. So, for all intents and purposes the two warring factions within the PNC are now in open confrontation on this issue.
What are the facts? The APNU, of which the PNC is the largest member, appears not to be a functioning organisation for a long time. The WPA, one of the two founding members of the Partnership, made this charge as far back as 2017. Efforts to correct this situation were unsuccessful as the group only met intermittently after that. The WPA and the Justice For All Party eventually left the APNU in the wake of the Coalition’s loss of office in 2020. The JFAP seemed to be peeved that it was not awarded a seat in parliament while the WPA indicated that it was awarded a seat, but Mr. Granger did not allow the party to choose its representative. He instead chose Ms. Tabitha Sarabo-Halley from the WPA’s list of candidates.
The WPA as indicated above left the Partnership and Ms. Sarabo-Halley resigned from the party but still holds the seat in the Assembly. She subsequently announced the formation of her own party which along with one formed by former JFAP member Mr. Jaipaul Sharma was admitted to the APNU. So, as it stands the APNU comprises the PNC, the Guyana Action Party, The National Front Alliance and the two new parties referenced above. Sources close to the APNU have told this publication that apart from the PNC, none of these parties actually function and there have not been any recent meetings of the APNU as a body.
It is our understanding that Mr. Granger was never elected to the positions of APNU leader, APNU+AFC Presidential candidate and Representative of the list. He assumed these positions as leader of the PNC, the largest party in the APNU and the Coalition. In other words, the PNC claimed these positions and named its leader to them. None of the other parties, it seems, opposed the PNC’s “right” to these positions. If this is what actually obtained, it would seem that now that Mr. Granger is no longer the leader of PNC, he should step aside and let the party choose its representative to serve in these positions.
The argument that no single party can decide what happens at the level of the APNU and the Coalition does not seem to be supported by the facts and the history of how Mr Granger ran it. Our check with sources acquainted with the workings of the APNU and the Coalition reveal that it was normal for the PNC leadership within the APNU to make decisions for the groupings without consulting other members. As pointed out above, the WPA is on record as charging that the Leader and the PNC’s leadership made decisions even on who from the other parties appeared on the Coalition’s list of candidates, who represented them in parliament and Cabinet.
Further, Mr. Harmon’s argument that he was elected by over 200, 000 voters while Norton was elected by under a thousand party members misses the point by a large margin. Mr. Harmon was not elected directly by any voter—he was part of a list of candidates that was elected at the 2020 election. And Mr. Norton was part of that said List and so was also duly elected. Mr. Harmon was chosen by the Representative of the List to be a MP and Leader of the Opposition. It should be noted here, that the Representative of the List for the 2015 election was Professor Harold Lutchman—part of the agreements between the APNU and the AFC in the Cummingsburg Accord. However, in the Revised Accord of 2020, this was changed. In exchange for retaining its bloc of parliamentary seats, the AFC conceded the Representative of the List to the APNU, and the PNC, not the APNU named Mr. Granger to that position.
Having pointed out the above, this publication calls on the PNC to settle this issue. This is not an APNU problem—it is a PNC problem. Mr. Norton and Mr. Granger need to meet. Mr. Harmon is incidental to the matter—he did not name himself to parliament or appoint himself as Opposition Leader. Mr. Granger must do as Ms. Amna Ally did and resign his position as Representative of the List. He must also resign as Leader of the APNU and let the PNC choose his replacement. It is not as complex a matter as it is made out to be. For the sake of the over 200, 000 Coalition voters and the larger base, let good sense prevail.