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…say Granger, Harmon, do not have any position of authority in the party
By Svetlana Marshall
Having conducted initial talks on the push by the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) for its Leader Aubrey Norton to replace Joseph Harmon as the Leader of the Opposition, the two leaders are expected to meet again very soon to continue their negotiations but for Political Analyst, Dr. Henry Jeffrey, there is really nothing to negotiate on the basis that Harmon having suffered a massive defeat at the PNCR’s 21st Biennial Delegates Congress, should do the honourable thing and step down.
Appearing on Politics 101 alongside Political Scientist, Dr. David Hinds; Media Consultant, Audreyanna Thomas and Veteran Journalist, Adam Harris, Dr. Jeffrey said should Harmon fail to resign as Leader of the Opposition, a No-Confidence Motion should be moved against him.
According to the Political Analyst, Harmon, having lost the PNCR Elections, have also lost the right to negotiate. “You don’t walk, no-confidence! This is not a discourse anymore, you have no authority…you have lost the right to any negotiation,” Dr. Jeffrey said in a direct message to the incumbent Opposition Leader.
Notably, the PNCR forms a major part of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), which accounts for 31 seats in the National Assembly.
The Leader of the Opposition is elected to Office under Article 110 of the Constitution, however, conditions for such a Leader to be removed are outlined in Article 184. The Constitution states among other things that the Office of the Leader of the Opposition shall become vacant if “the holder ceases to be a member of the Assembly for any cause other than the dissolution of Parliament;” or “where one-third of the non-governmental members of the Assembly represent to the Speaker that the Leader of the Opposition no longer enjoys their confidence…”
But for Harmon to be recalled from Parliament in the absence of a vote of no-confidence, and replaced by Norton, it would require the involvement of the Leader of the List, in this case, former President David Granger – the immediate past Leader of the PNCR and the Chairman of the APNU+AFC Coalition. For Dr. Jeffrey, Granger should also step down as Leader of the List.
Iterating that both Harmon and Granger should have resigned “gracefully” from their positions, Dr. Jeffrey said he is surprised that the PNCR has allowed the matter to reach to this stage.
“What they are doing is totally unacceptable; it needs no bureaucracy,” Dr. Jeffrey said. He noted that in the political system, leadership change is inevitable, and such change could take place at any level, at any time.
“You are not a MP to stay there like a bureaucrat; you are a MP to take a walk when a new leader walks in,” he posited while pointing out that the situation is no different when there is a change in government or presidents.
In his initial response to call by PNCR’s Central Executive Committee for him to be replaced by Norton, Harmon said his mandate as Leader of the Opposition was given by the APNU+AFC Coalition that contested the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
“The main Parliamentary Opposition is the APNU+AFC coalition and consists of 31 Members of Parliament. The APNU Partnership has an established structure and if the executive of a party in the partnership has a position and they wish to express that position; they should follow the established procedures. The Office of the Leader of the Opposition is a constitutional office and is consequently governed by the constitution,” Harmon said.
But Dr. Hinds, whose party – the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) – once formed part of APNU, and by extension APNU+AFC, said there are no elected positions within the coalition. He explained that parties are given various positions, and are required to fill them.
“If Granger was a WPA Member he would never have been a Presidential Candidate, he was Presidential Candidate because he was leader of the big party [the PNCR],” Dr. Hinds reasoned. He recalled that ahead of the 2011 General Elections, the PNCR assigned Granger as the Presidential Candidate for APNU, while WPA named Rupert Roopnaraine as the Prime Ministerial Candidate. He noted further that when the APNU and AFC coalesced ahead of the 2015 Elections, the PNCR, which forms a major part of APNU, identified the Presidential Candidate, while the AFC named the Prime Ministerial Candidate, in the person of Moses Nagamootoo.
According to Dr. Hinds, the matter is not legal in nature but political in nature. Notably, Norton is not a Member of Parliament, though he is named on the Coalition’s List of Candidates/ Representatives. For him to become Leader of the Opposition, a Member of Parliament would first have to be recalled. For Dr. Hinds, Granger, Leader of the List, holds the solution to the problem.
But while Dr. Jeffrey, in his deliberations made a strong case for both Harmon and Granger to step down, he said it is not necessarily his belief that Norton should go to Parliament and serve as Opposition Leader. According to him, the PNCR Leader, would better serve his party and the people of Guyana, mobilising on the ground.
“When he is on the streets, when he is mobilising the groups, that is terror for them [PPP], that is terror for any opposite side,” he posited.
But Thomas begged to differ. According to her, Norton, having overwhelmingly won the leadership of the PNCR, should serve as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.
Like Dr. Jeffrey, Thomas said she is surprised that Harmon and Granger did not do the mature thing and resign from their positions.
She said currently, Granger and Harmon, do not have any position of authority in the party – the PNCR – they claim to represent.
“How could Mr. Granger remain as the Representative of the List when he does not have the authority to speak on behalf of his party? How could Mr. Harmon remain the Leader of the Opposition, when he does not have the authority?” she questioned.
Thomas said they would have to seek guidance from Norton and the Central Executive of the PNCR.
Further, she submitted that in addition to Norton being Leader of the Opposition, Harmon should remain in Parliament but as a Parliamentary and Governance Coordinator. She submitted too that Harmon should be co-op into the CEC of the PNCR.
“Change is difficult,” Thomas posited. However, she said if managed properly, it could result in an almost seamless transition. Weighing in on the matter, Harris underscored the importance of negotiation. Negotiation, he posited, is key.
Grilled on the issue on Friday, Norton said his initial meeting with Harmon went “exceptionally well.” According to him, they are expected to meet soon, however, he said it is “an internal matter” and therefore would be dealt with internally.
“Once we would have completed those talks then we will inform the press,” he told reporters while remaining tightlipped on the situation.