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JM | Nov 20, 2020

Golding pushing to heal PNP’s pain: In exclusive interview, new president outlines plans for party

Al Edwards

Al Edwards / Our Today

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Mark Golding (left), recently elected president of the People’s National Party, speaks with Al Edwards of Our Today.

Earlier this month, Mark Golding saw off Lisa Hanna in the race to become the sixth president of the 82-year-old People’s National Party (PNP).

Now begins the arduous work of resecting the party and getting it in a position to win the next general elections.

Golding is well regarded, both within the PNP and wider circles in Jamaica, with a stellar record as a corporate lawyer, investment banker and a politician and government minister. Known for taking a sanguine approach, it will be left to him to unite a fractious party where bile and acrimony still prevails.

FIRST STEP TO UNITY

So what are his immediate plans?

“We are at a particularly low ebb now as a party, having suffered a really serious defeat on the 3rd of September,” Golding said as he sat down with Our Today for a wide-ranging interview this week.

“We are now down to 14 out of 63 seats in Parliament and morale is low. There is a real desire to see the party come together as a united force, so the first order of business is to develop a procedure or process for encouraging unity within the party.”

He added: “We have already started that process by putting together what we call ‘the Unity Team’, with Lisa (Hanna) appointing three persons and I have also appointed three persons and we have some professional experts in mediation and team building on it as well. Their role is going to be to collaboratively design the process of trying to build unity in the party and it cannot be just at the leadership level, it has to be right down, and we are prepared to stay the course with it.”

Photo: Facebook @MarkJGolding

Golding noted that, in the past, the PNP has had internal contests that have been bitter with hurtful words said, and, once those contests ended, there had been no process of healing. He believes the cumulative effect of that over the last decade or more has been untreated pain and anguish and he wants that addressed.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS ON THE HORIZON

The next step for the new PNP leader and the party is to prepare for the upcoming local government elections and he sees challenges with that coming so close after the general elections. The party, he said, will have to do what it needs to do to get the best outcome given the circumstances. He will be working with a team of councilor candidates and the organisation to achieve that.

Michael Manley, P.J. Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller each brought glory to the PNP, presiding over a well-oiled and effective political machine that took a more egalitarian approach to the governance of the country and management of  state affairs.

People’s National Party (PNP) President Mark Golding, centre, speaks to the media after winning the 2020 leadership race against Lisa Hanna. Alongside him are members of his family (seated), as well as high-ranking PNP operatives (from left) Fitz Jackson, Julian Robinson, Anthony Hylton and Angela Brown Burke. (Photo: Facebook @MarkJGolding)

Golding now has to dismantle what has not worked and rebuild the party, making it fit for purpose in the 21st Century and ready to resume power. Achieving this would put him in the pantheon of the greats of the party and see him ushering in a bright new era for the PNP.

“We have to rebuild the organisation. We have campaigned on political education and revitalising the groups. The PNP’s basic structure of organisation on the ground is small groups of like-minded persons who support the party, who have a role in educating Jamaicans about what the party is about, where we are going and where we have been before. Social outreach, community outreach and political work. We plan to put someone in charge within the party structure who will be responsible for driving that process of revitalisation.

“It is important that we no longer see the groups as merely a voting device. I am committed to the idea of ‘one member, one vote’ when it comes to choosing the president and vice-presidents. That will vastly increase the number of voters because our membership is much bigger than the delegates. I think that will deepen democracy in the party and remove some of the temptations around trying to win which in the past have been a factor. But that won’t happen until we have an annual conference because that requires a constitutional amendment.”

‘LISA HANNA IS MY FRIEND’

Golding and Hanna follow COVID-19 protocol as they greet each other at the start of the recent presidential campaign and outgoing party president Dr Peter Phillips looks on. (Photo Facebook @MarkJGolding)

A big weakness of the PNP over the last five years has been its communication apparatus and its inability to connect with those who are under 40. The party bought into the notion that “Jamaica is PNP country,” and did not pay attention to messaging. It also failed to fully embrace the digital age and modern political campaigning.

This is not lost on Golding, who said: “There has to be an emphasis placed on effective communication and there has been some brainstorming around that. The campaign that I ran had a very good team around communications and we want to make the party benefit from that.

“I am reaching out to Lisa on a regular basis to include her. Now, I know that is a process because when you go through something as intense as a campaign there are disappointments if you don’t win and I understand that, but she is my friend and I respect her and I am hoping  over time we can restore our friendship to the fullest. She can be a very positive force in the rebuilding of the unity and to move the party forward.”

Golding with constituents in St Andrew South. (Photo: Facebook @MarkJGolding)



What comes across from Mark Golding and many people share this, is that he has a graciousness and equanimity that is appealing. There doesn’t seem to be anything vituperative or vindictive about him, he is not a man of the dark arts.

He chuckles when I bring that up, then says with a wide grin, “What I can tell you, Al, is that I come from a family background where politeness and courtesy is part of the upbringing I had. Caring for others, compassion, doing the right thing out of a sense of obligation, especially to the less fortunate in the society, that’s all part of the culture of my family.

“As a member of parliament for South St Andrew, I have approached it in that way. I meet the people where they are, show them love and care and felt the love and care back from them. I don’t really change who I am depending on the circumstances I find myself in. I am really one person who has a particular approach to life; I am somebody who is respectful of others, I do not feel that I am better than anybody else. I am empathetic and caring about other people, especially when they have challenges in their lives. I can’t always do something, but I always feel the need to try and do something and I help people if I can.

“That’s really who I am. The constituency has felt that and embraced it and I think the wider Jamaica saw a touch of it. I would say to Jamaica, what you see is what you get. As you get to know me, you will see I am a genuine person and somebody who operates by principle. Nobody is perfect, we all have our weaknesses and faults, but I am somebody that the people of Jamaica can relate to and can feel a sense of trust that I will be looking out for their interests, especially the little man, the poor man, the sufferer.

“That is where my heart is and that is what I have come into politics to do, to help move the country forward as a whole – all Jamaicans but with a special emphasis on the upliftment of those who have not had the most opportunities in life because of the circumstances of their birth and need help. That is what the PNP is about and that is why I am a member of the PNP because it aligns with my own outlook on life.”

LOOK OUT FOR MORE FROM THE GOLDING INTERVIEW ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 22

Mark Golding, president of the People’s National Party, during an exclusive interview this week with Our Today.

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