Last Updated on Saturday, 16 October 2021, 11:28 by Denis Chabrol
By GHK Lall
The word gaining momentum is that Mr. Joseph Harmon, current Opposition Leader, is making sounds about running again for the prized PNC leadership position. My first reaction was ‘say that again’ which was followed by ‘this just can’t be,’ so unbelievable it was, so unsound it would be for the PNC, for this society. The implications of this are stark: Mr. Harmon’s possibly competing for PNC leadership is the absolute worst nightmare for his party, which is the party’s business. When it is the same nightmare for this country, it becomes my business and that of every Guyanese. Guyana desperately needs an Opposition Leader that has substance, engages, and inspires. Most regrettably, the Hon. Lt Col (Ret’d) Joseph Harmon, LLB, MP, is not such a man, has no such caliber, and is exemplary in unfitness for such a position. His present record speaks.
I recall the warm affection in voices speaking of this mysterious L’il Joe, who I thought was a local cartoon character. I found out immediately how wrong I was; and every time, how right I was. Like Mr. Aubrey Norton, I have never met, nor spoken to, nor listened to, nor been near Mr. Harmon. What I observe about him, though, makes me want to reach for strong spirits, so alarmed I am by his meandering political spirit, hazy, unsteady presence. L’il Joe fits well, since I am still searching for his essence, the textures of what makes him tick, any grandness besides his remarkable emptiness. To say that he is elusive as an Opposition Leader is no statement at all, because he is MIA on the boiling, stormy issues of the day. Oil. Clean governance. Ethical leadership. Economy. Citizen welfare. Sometimes, I ask myself whether he and the VP are not one and the same person.
For a man who made the military a long part of his career, he lacks militancy; and for someone who is a practicing attorney, of a sort, there is the absence of vocal vibrant advocacy in the political realm. The man is not even a ‘has been’; he qualifies to be a ‘has not.’ What does he represent? Who can he represent? Who is he really representing?
I think of these things, and I arrive here: in the frail fullness that is now the characteristic of Mr. Joseph Harmon, he has nothing to offer, is mere bystander at this most crucial time in our history. Drunks, addicts, and street citizens work more to deliver a little more for themselves to continue for a few more hours. They have no dependent constituency, one restless with disappointments, raging with pent-up frustrations, and still hopeful for a better day: a little bam-bye from Guyana’s pie. It is in these contexts that Mr. Harmon is flat on his back, has manifested no head for what the demands of the hour are. He is voiceless, listless, and directionless. A tangle-footed dancer with clumsy steps, a man out of his depth, be such dance floor or debating floor. On the floor of public opinion, he is denounced, starting with his own.
When he needs to be an oilman, he is serene in being a nowhere man. When he needs to be a standup guy, he is the guy bending over. And when he needs to get in the faces of opponents, he is off to the races, meaning, the other direction. As a leader, he lacks the fire and flair of a fighter; a dogged plodder is he. Former army squaddies shake their heads, his professional colleagues are guarded (they know why), and his political brethren wring their hands. I suspect they would prefer to do their wringing in his direction, around his effigy.
In all of this, the happiest Guyanese are not his closest supporters, who examine the hand they hold and detect a confirmed loser. I believe that the most delighted people around are in the PPP. The Vice President must be dancing on his head, until I remember: no mop. In fact, his covert intelligence system has alerted him to PNC travails. And since I know the VP’s mode of thinking and characteristic modus operandi, I sense sponsorship of L’il Joe to be Big Joe. If I am the mighty crafty VP, I would spend money on it, make happen an Opposition Leader like Joe Harmon, since the VP would be the biggest beneficiary. This is a poisoned chalice, and warns PNC(ers) and Guyanese of the compromises and collaborations that now plague our politics and our leaders. Because when there is a Joseph Harmon at the helm of the Opposition, there is no opposition in Guyana; there is a one-man Guyana. What is good for the VP and Mr. Harmon (and oil magnates) is incalculably bad for Guyana.
I beat the tom-toms again: if there is no Opposition Leader of recognized prowess, of confident energy, of driving unifying force, then there is this vast vacuum. Absolutely nothing. Guyanese have had this for a year and a half almost, they can’t be this backward, this unconcerned. I will not think for the PNC, make no recommendations to its people, but elect Joe Harmon as leader, and the apathy of the last 15 months surges. The leader is not Harmon, and if it is not Norton, then try Auntie Volda, and if she is persona non grata, then get somebody else, but none of those loud, shallow upstarts. The problem is who?