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-–David Hinds hails him as good manger, but a victim of circumstances
Political Scientist, Dr. David Hinds said Joseph Harmon – the former Leader of the Opposition – is a victim of circumstances as he reflected on his decision to resign from the Parliament of Guyana with effect from March 15.
Harmon submitted his Letter of Resignation to the Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir on March 3, 2022. In a brief comment to the Village Voice Newspaper, he cited his reason as “personal” but Dr. Hinds opined that the resignation is another indirect effect of the historic 2018 No-Confidence Motion.
“He is in many regards a victim of circumstances—some that were unavoidable and some of his own choosing. His resignation has to be seen in the context of the APNU+AFC loss of power two years ago,” Dr. Hinds told the Village Voice Newspaper.
The Political Scientist said the fallout from that development has not abated as the Coalition has not, for unknown reasons, sat down and engaged in any serious analysis of what transpired before, during and after the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
The result – a fragmented coalition, mostly on the part of the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Dr. Hinds said. According to him, the coalition that has rendered the Opposition toothless.
“As far as the PNC is concerned, the fact that it is the largest party in the grouping, means that the fallout has been more pronounced within that organization. The finger-pointing and counter finger-pointing and the apportioning of blame have been quite intense. There has also been the settling of scores with those in authority using it to sideline perceived opponents. The fact that the top leadership did not step aside immediately after the loss of government has also helped to create a toxic atmosphere in the party. Finally, the party’s inability to mount any serious and sustained opposition to the PPP’s aggression is both a cause and effect of the stalemate within the party,” Hinds reasoned.
He said it is for that reason Harmon’s resignation both as Opposition Leader and Member of Parliament should be seen not as a choice.
“While he has apparently resigned by choice, in a real sense he was pushed out by the sheer force of the toxic stalemate within the party. He is a casualty of the political blood-letting that occurs when a party loses power in the circumstances which forced the Coalition out of office. The inability to stop the blood-letting is a direct result of the factionalization that has enveloped the party and does not seem to be ending anytime soon,” Dr. Hinds reasoned.
He posited that Harmon, perhaps naively or out of loyalty, took up the mantle as Leader of the Opposition but that decision has back fired on him and will now see him leaving Parliament in a matter of days.
“That was always going to work against him, for in this instance the leader wrongly or rightly is seen as the root cause of the loss of power. He has been characterised as weak, autocratic and aloof depending on who you talk to. He is perhaps the most maligned ex-leader among his constituents in modern Guyanese politics,” Dr. Hinds said.
According to Dr. Hinds, former President David Granger’s decision to appoint Harmon Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition while sideling senior party members, placed Harmon in a very untenable situation.
“He, Harmon, became the whipping boy for Granger’s detractors,” Dr. Hinds said, while noting that from the onset, Harmon lacked the full support of the party.
“It would not be out of place to conclude that he and his cadre of MP’s were undermined from inside. Harmon, therefore, lacked the political firepower needed for that delicate assignment. In the end he appeared lackluster, often bereft of the bite and focus needed to mount an effective opposition to an aggressive government which is the product of Regime Change,” Dr. Hinds said.
According to him, the fact that the PNC opted not to mount street protests against the government is among factors that worked against Harmon.
“Having made the case that the government was stolen via Regime Change, the logic was some form of aggressive response. The fact that was deterred partly by intra-party disarray, partly by bad tactics and partly by geopolitical factors meant that the official opposition appeared weak in the eyes of its supporters. As the Leader, Harmon became the target for the frustrations of supporters,” Hinds said.
Further, Dr. Hinds submitted that it was “unwise” for Harmon to challenge the now Leader of the PNCR, Aubrey Norton for the leadership of the party. Harmon, according to Dr. Hinds, badly misread the mood of the party and the base.
“He did not understand the extent to which the party faithful had become disenchanted with him and the extent to which Norton had come to embody that disenchantment not just with him, but with the entire party establishment. The loss to Norton then was the last nail in the proverbial coffin,” he further reasoned.
But the situation further deteriorated even after the PNCR Biennial Elections. It was noted that even after the PNCR signaled its strong desire to have Norton take up the mantle as the country’s Leader of the Opposition, there have been several attempts to block Norton from entering Parliament.
“Had he, Harmon, moved swiftly to an accommodation with Norton in the post-Congress period, he may have been able to avoid being the fall-guy for the party’s loss of power and its lackluster opposition to the PPP regime,” Dr. Hinds submitted.
He said it is unfortunate that though Harmon has a lot to offer at the top leadership level, his direct and indirect decisions and actions have landed him outside of the realm of leadership.
“He is perhaps the most Pro-Coalition of all the PNC leaders. He appears to be a good manager and he is not a weak leader. He only appeared weak because he was given a basket by Granger to fetch water. I hope he is not lost entirely to politics,” Dr. Hinds said.