Harmon says ‘no’ to stepping aside as Opposition Leader, reshuffling of Opposition MPs

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Just one week after his crushing defeat at an election that saw a major change in leadership within the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon insists that he will not give up the constitutional post.

With some current opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) also suffering defeat at the internal party elections, Harmon says he does not support calls for a reshuffling of some MPs to allow for members of the new leadership to take up seats in the National Assembly.

Aubrey Norton who won the leadership of the PNC/R with a more than 700 lead ahead of Harmon is not a serving MP although the new Chairman, Shurwayne Holder is.

There have been calls for moves to be taken to allow for Norton to head to Parliament but that is yet to be discussed by members of the new Central Executive Committee – the highest decision-making body of the PNC/R.

Harmon, who only ran for Leader of the party, now hopes that he will be co-opted to the CEC.

“I am a member of PNC/R and I will remain that,” Harmon told the News Room on Tuesday.

He said despite the results of those elections, it does not change the fact that he represents over 200,000 voters as Opposition Leader. But it was Harmon during his campaign for party leader who said that the leader of the party and Leader of the Opposition should be one person.

On Tuesday, he doubled back on that position.

The immediate past leader David Granger did not return to Parliament after the party’s defeat at the national general and regional elections but continued to serve as party leader while Harmon took up the post as Opposition Leader. Harmon used this scenario as his justification.

“It is the same situation we had before; it is the same situation we have after… the election does not change the arrangement in Parliament. My mandate is a separate mandate altogether.

“It’s two positions and we should work together,” he contended.

Harmon said with less than 2, 000 persons voting at the internal party elections and him representing over 200, 000 from the general elections, he does not think the call for him to step aside is fair and he has no intentions to do so.

“Members of Parliament cannot be recalled willy nilly. It’s a process that involves the Representative of the List and recommendation to the National Assembly.

“I will only support that call [for a reshuffle] based on the performance of the MPs in Parliament. Right now, the current MPs are doing a good job and they have my support,” Harmon stated.

The reshuffle will ultimately have to be done by former President David Granger who remains the leader of the list.

There is one condition to Harmon stepping aside; he said it would first need to be established that it has become difficult for the party to confront political opponents with him being Opposition Leader and not holding the position as party leader.

Article 184 (3) of Guyana’s Constitution speaks about the removal of the Leader of the Opposition.

It instructs that the removal of the Opposition Leader is effected when one-third of the non-governmental members of the National Assembly inform the Speaker that the Opposition Leader no longer enjoys their confidence.

The Speaker is expected to call a meeting of all non-governmental members where it shall be decided whether the Opposition Leader shall be removed from office. That Article further notes that the removal shall be effected by the votes of a majority of all of the non-governmental members.

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