Last Updated on Friday, 12 November 2021, 16:06 by Denis Chabrol
Joseph Harmon says the positions of Opposition Leader and Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) should be held by one person, but his main rival, Aubrey Norton, says if he wins the leadership race the party will have to decide.
Tracing the history of the PNCR, Mr. Harmon noted that its founder-leader Forbes Burnham, as President, through from Desmond Hoyte to David Granger as Opposition Leader, had been all leaders of that party. “There is a pattern of these two positions merging. I’m the Leader of the Opposition now but I’m not the leader of the party and so what we’re aiming to do with these elections is to basically bring those two positions so that we can have that strength and that power to go forward,” he said.
Asked if he would step aside from the constitutional office of Opposition Leader if he does not win the post of PNCR Leader, Mr. Harmon said “it is not a process like that” and he would work with the party to strengthen and unify it to confront the People’s National Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) administration.
Mr. Norton declined to give a definitive answer on whether he would seek to have Mr. Harmon remain as Opposition Leader or persuade him to step aside. “Any sensible politician will not make statements on an issue before the time arises. Once we’re through with the election, Joseph Harmon is a member of the party and it is the task of us in the the party to sit down and work the way forward but I do not believe, at this stage, that I am propitiously disposed to making statements before I consult with the leadership and we take a collective position,” said Mr. Norton who has been openly associated with the PNC since he joined in the mid-1970s.
Mr. Harmon is banking his internal PNCR fortunes on being visionary and compassionate and looking after the interest of his party comrades. He also credited himself with managing the elections that had seen the People’s National Congress Reform and its led coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change getting more votes at general and regional elections- 114,000 in 2006; 139,000 in 2011; 208,000 in 2015 and 218,000 in 2020. “What you see is an upward trajectory,” he remarked.
For his part, Mr. Norton set aside himself from Mr. Harmon as someone has been in constant contact with PNCR supporters. “I have always been in contact with our party base. I think I know more party comrades at a personal level because I have travelled the country and worked with them,” he said. The former presidential advisor in the David Granger-led administration said party comrades described himself as “the most experienced politically” among the contenders could have accessed him because “I was all over and all around and if you know the People’s National Congress Reform, their supporters like to be in contact with their leadership.”
Noting that over the decades he had been a party member at all levels that has given him institutional memory “which a lot of persons don’t have”, he said he has promised to make the PNCR a “permanent elections machinery” to connect the executive with the grassroots.
Making it clear that he was not contrasting himself with anyone else, Mr. Norton said the PPP “knows full well that there is no illegality that they can go after me for and, therefore, I can tell them as I think once it is true.”
The PNCR’s Biennial Delegates Congress would be held on December 12 with a mix of in-person and virtual sessions due to the coronavirus, COVID-19.