Power struggle in PNCR: Replace Harmon as Opposition leader, Granger as APNU/AFC list rep with Norton – PNCR

…PNC must follow APNU protocols – Harmon

The Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the People’s National Congress Reform has decided that the newly-elected Leader of the Party, Aubrey Norton, should sit in the National Assembly and hold the post of the country’s Opposition Leader.

PNCR Leader Aubrey Norton

This was revealed by Norton during a press conference at Congress Place on Friday.
“As I understand it… the party’s Central Executive has decided that the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the party should be one person,” he told reporters, adding that he has the competence to serve in the National Assembly.
This now means that Norton would replace Joseph Harmon as Leader of the Opposition.
The PNCR Leader said he will be discussing this development with Harmon sometime before Wednesday.

Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon

However, on Friday it was reported that Harmon has indicated that PNC must now follow the protocols of A Partnership of National Unity (APNU) in which it is a coalition member and take its concerns to the executive body.
As it stands, former President and former leader of PNC, David Granger is the Representative of the List of Candidates for APNU/AFC. Granger is also the Chairman of APNU while Harmon on the other hand is the General Secretary.
But just last week, Harmon, who lost his bid for the PNCR leadership to Norton, had insisted that he should remain Opposition Leader. However, the Opposition Leader noted that he would only step down if his presence in the National Assembly hampers the APNU/AFC’s parliamentary performance. The PNCR is the leading party in the A Partnership for National Unity faction of the Opposition and holds the majority stake in the coalition arrangement with the Alliance For Change.
In addition to losing his contest for the party’s leadership, Harmon was also not elected to any of the Central Executive Committee seats of the PNCR. In fact, he was hoping to be co-opted unto the party’s executive as was done in the past.

Ad hoc changes to agreements
Meanwhile, in a statement on Friday evening, APNU said that in 2011 at the birth of the APNU a collective decision was made as to who would be Head of the List, adding that 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 David Granger and Khemraj Ramjattan, respectively. Those decisions were made and agreed upon as a collective. The members of A Partnership for National Unity are thus confused by statements which suggest any one party through its internal meeting can make ad hoc changes to agreements which were reached and expected to last for the tenure of the 12th Parliament,” APNU said.
According to APNU, if there are issues or concerns that need to be addressed, any member of the Partnership or coalition knows the method that should be used in addressing those issues or concerns.
The members of the APNU, the statement noted, would therefore expect that all members, in keeping with the proper and ethical norms, would bring their positions on matters before the APNU Executive for consensus and agreement rather than making public pronouncements on matters that cannot be decided upon by any one party.
“The members of A Partnership for National Unity have had no reason to question the abilities of David Granger and Khemraj Ramjattan as Head and Deputy Head of the list of the APNU/AFC, we have had no reason to question the leadership of Joseph Harmon as Leader of the Opposition and we have had no reasons to question the abilities of any Member of Parliament. While we are yet to meet with the new PNCR Leader Mr Aubrey Norton, we are expecting to have a good working relationship with him as we’ve had with former President David Granger,” the APNU statement read.

At Friday’s press conference, the PNCR Leader disclosed that Member of Parliament Roysdale Forde, Region Four Chairman Daniel Seeram, Joan-Ann Ramacindo and Sherwood Lowe have been co-opted to the CEC.
The PNCR’s constitution allows for the party leader to co-opt non-elected members to the Central Executive Committee. Norton said that there are about 10 spots to fill in total.
While he did not indicate whether he intends to also nominate Harmon to be co-opted to the Executive, Norton, nevertheless, contended that he is committed to working along with Harmon and other party members.
“You would recall that throughout the campaign, I stressed regularly that I do not intend to be a maximum leader. I want to be involved in the servant-type relationship and to involve all of our stakeholders in the process and let our decisions be a reflection of the collective will. I intend to do that,” he stated.
In fact, the party leader informed reporters that he has already started working with many party members who did not support him during the PNCR’s 21st Biennial Congress held in December 2022 including Dr Richard Van West-Charles, who also contested for the leadership post.
“I think it is reasonable to conclude that I believe that there is a place for everyone in the party. I believe, essentially, the party’s work is made lighter when we have all hands-on deck. Mr Harmon has hands and I’m disposed to them being on deck,” Norton posited.
Efforts by Guyana Times to contact Harmon on Friday for a comment on these developments from the PNCR Leader were futile.
Meanwhile, with the new leadership of the party elected at the December 2021 Congress and Norton now heading to Parliament, a shake-up amongst the current cohort of Opposition Members of Parliament is likely – something which Harmon does not believe should happen. He had told reporters last week that the Opposition’s current crop of MPs are doing a good job, hence no need for a recall.
But at Friday’s press conference, Norton explained that the party’s Central Executive will have to discuss this issue of recalling Opposition members in the National Assembly.

“I do not want to go out there and say to the world that we are recalling anybody… The central executive in due time will address all of these issues,” he asserted.
However, changes to the line-up of Opposition parliamentarians would have to be done by the Representative of the party’s List.
David Granger, who Norton replaced as party leader, currently holds that post.
Norton said he has also reached out the Granger for dialogue in this regard. He pointed out that the PNCR Central Executive also believes that the Leader of the party should be the Representative of the List.
“Historically, the Leader of the Party and the Representative of the List have been one in the same person… With the advent of the coalition, there were some compromises that occurred… But you are also aware that at the last election it was again placed back together, and we have therefore returned to the tradition which we believe is in the best interest of the party,” the party leader related.
According to Norton, the PNCR’s Central Executives believe that the amalgamation of these positions under the Leader posts will allow for better functioning of the party.
“One of the arguments they 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 to better strategise to ensure efficacy,” he stated.
Norton had secured a landslide victory after obtaining more than half of the 1280 votes cast at last month’s Congress. He got 967 votes; while Harmon obtained 245 votes and Van West-Charles received 64 votes.
Only Thursday, the PNCR announced that Norton has appointed Opposition MP Geeta Chandan-Edmond as the party’s General Secretary, replacing PNCR stalwart Amna Ally. (G8)