Jan 27, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir on Wednesday formally informed the National Assembly that Joseph Harmon has resigned as Leader of the Opposition.
He used the occasion at the beginning of yesterday’s session to indicate receipt of a letter from Harmon confirming the decision with immediate effect. To this end, he indicated that he did meet with Opposition parties in the House with regards the setting up of a formal meeting to elect a new Opposition Leader at a later date. He did inform as well that Deputy Speaker and leader the House, Lennox Shuman, has indicated not to be a part of the proceedings.
The move comes one day after Harmon and David Granger resigned as general secretary and chairman of the APNU respectively and Norton assuming the role as chairman. The coalition, according to a statement on Tuesday, held its first EXCO meeting of 2022. Present at the meeting were Granger, Harmon, Norton, Mr. Jaipaul Sharma of the Equal Rights and Justice Party, Mr. Vincent Henry of the Guyana Action Party, Mrs. Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, MP of Guyana Nation Builders and Mr. Keith Scott of the National Front Alliance.
The substantive agenda saw the passing of the baton for the continuation and development of
coalition politics as Granger and Harmon reported their decision to demit office as Chair and General Secretary of the APNU. The EXCO requested that Harmon continues as General Secretary for a period of seven days to facilitate the smooth transition to a new General Secretary. However, Mr. Granger demitted office with immediate effect paving the way for the election of Norton as the new Chairman of the APNU. According to the statement, members of the Executive thanked the outgoing Chair and General Secretary for their role in advancing the idea of the APNU to what it is today. “It was noted that their astute leadership saw the growth of the APNU and the acceptance of the populace to coalition politics which resulted in an increase in votes from 2011 to 2020,” the statement read.
Following Harmon’s resignation, the People’s National Congress Reform in a statement expressed gratitude to him for his service. The party said it will address the issue of filling the position of Leader of the Opposition with its Coalition partners in the shortest possible time.
Meanwhile, Opposition Chief Whip, Christopher Jones in a statement also thanked Harmon for his service. Jones who was on Norton’s team for the recently concluded Congress of the PNCR said, “While we are all disappointed in this development, we appreciate that recent developments within the PNCR and APNU have determined that changes are inevitable.” “We take the opportunity to thank Mr. Harmon for his sterling contribution thus far.” Jones said in the circumstances, the Members of Parliament will urgently consult with the leadership of their respective parties so that the way forward, and a suitable candidate to assume the important office of Leader of the Opposition can be identified. “We are advised that the temporary absence of a Leader of the Opposition is no hindrance to the proceedings of the National Assembly ensuing and we will continue to function accordingly.”
The resignation of Harmon is being seen as the initial steps for Norton to take control of the leadership of the opposition. The PNCR executive has already decided that Norton must be elected Leader of the Opposition and representative of the list. Both Granger and Harmon had been stubborn regarding calls for them to step aside. Political Commentator, Dr. Henry Jeffrey in a recent online discussion called on both Granger and Harmon to resign their posts, paving the way for Norton. He said having overwhelmingly won the leadership of the PNCR, Norton should be made the head of the list as well as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. Norton had told a news conference that “one of the arguments the PNCR Central Executive Committee made, is that it has been the convention in the Party and the second argument, is that it provides for better coordination and control of the activities of the Party and for better strategising to ensure efficacy.” In this regard, he said that a decision is likely to be made by mid next week. According to him, the Leader of the Party and the representative of the list has been one and the same person, historically, but this had changed since the PNC joined the Coalition.
He noted that some compromises were made which allowed for the modification. Nonetheless, “at the last election, it was again placed together and we have therefore returned to the tradition, which we believe, is in the best interest of the party and the country,” Norton pointed out.
However, since Norton made the announcement, there has been resistance from Harmon who in an official statement to the media reminded that, “the main Parliamentary Opposition is the APNU+AFC coalition and consists of 31 Members of Parliament.” To this end, he reminded that, “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.” Harmon used the occasion to remind publicly that, “the Office of the Leader of the Opposition is a constitutional office and is consequently governed by the constitution.” This, in addition to an unsigned statement released to the media purportedly from “Members” reminding that “in 2011 at the birth of the APNU, a collective decision was made as to who would be head of the list. In 2015, a collective decision was made as to who would be head of the list when the Alliance For Change coalesced with APNU.” In 2020, the APNU+AFC agreed that the head and the deputy head of the list would be Granger and Khemraj Ramjattan respectively.
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