Budget debate and Opposition Leader’s resignation: Harmon to close Opposition’s presentations as “MP”

While Member of Parliament (MP) Joseph Harmon has stepped down as Opposition Leader and that position remains vacant, his place on the Order Paper to speak on Friday, on the last day of the Budget 2022 debates, remains unchanged.
In an interview with this publication, Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, indicated that with Harmon’s resignation, he would no longer be performing the role of Opposition Leader, or speaking in that capacity.
According to the Speaker, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) parliamentary Opposition would have to nominate someone to be the Opposition Leader. And while the Standing Orders indicate that there should be an Opposition Leader, the business of the house can continue in the interim before one is elected.
“The Opposition will have to indicate that they are prepared to nominate someone else, and I would have to okay that… It’s just that you should have a Leader of the Opposition, and the Constitution outlines how you elect the Leader of the Opposition,” Nadir explained.
It was only last week that, amid mounting pressure from within the party, Harmon resigned as Opposition Leader, making way for People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) Leader Aubrey Norton to take up that role. Harmon has subsequently not been physically present at sittings of the National Assembly.
Norton, who secured a landslide victory at the party’s internal Congress in December 2021, had disclosed previously that the PNCR Central Executive Committee (CEC) had decided that he should also hold the post of Leader of the Opposition.
Harmon, who lost his bid for the PNCR leadership position to Norton, had been adamant that he should remain in the position, which was given to him by former PNCR Leader David Granger. Harmon has also not been re-elected to the party’s Central Executive Committee – its highest decision-making body.
Harmon’s resignation had been preceded by a series of meetings over the past two weeks. In a brief statement after his announced resignation, the PNC expressed gratitude to Harmon, and thanked him for his service. The party had also said it would address the issue of filling the position of Leader of the Opposition with its coalition partners in the shortest possible time.
Moreover, at the sitting of the National Assembly wherein the Government presented Budget 2022, Nadir had announced that he would soon be meeting with the APNU/AFC on the election of a new Opposition Leader.
Deputy Speaker Lenox Shuman, who is the representative of the joinder list which comprises A New and United Guyana (ANUG), the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and The New Movement (TNM), has indicated that he would not be participating in that process to elect the new Leader of the Opposition.
Harmon’s resignation as Opposition Leader came one day after he also stepped down as General Secretary of the APNU, while Granger has resigned as the party’s Chairman. The APNU Chairmanship has since been taken up by Norton. (G3)