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JM | Jul 17, 2021

Watching the PNP split apart like rotting breadfruit

/ Our Today

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Phillip Paulwell, Wykeham McNeill, Mikael Phillips and Damion Crawford after winning the vice presidency elections during the People’s National Party’s (PNP) 80th annual conference in Kingston. (Photo: Facebook @JamaicaPNP)

“This infection is fungal and begins to show signs on lower fruit. The first sign is a brown spot that turns white with mold spores. It is usually spread by contaminated soil splashing up onto the fruit and then by wind. You can prevent fruit rot by trimming back low branches and REMOVING ANY AFFECTED FRUIT BEFORE THEY CONTAMINATE THE REST.”

 – Gardening Know How-How to Fix Unhealthy Breadfruit Trees

Hello, it’s Halloween.

What a horror show!

The decision by People’s National Party (PNP) Chairman Phillip Paulwell, and Vice Presidents Dr Wykeham McNeill, Mikael Phillips and Damion Crawford to step down from PNP executive leadership and concentrate on their constituencies heralds another nail in the party’s coffin.

The demise of one of the great political parties of the English-speaking Caribbean is clear for all to see and Mark Golding has a now insurmountable challenge to hold the party together and make it a credible alternative to an unassailable Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) which looks set to be in power for a generation.

Mark Golding, president of the People’s National Party.

At a time when both Jamaica and the world are faced with health and economic crises which call for unity, call for solutions, call for putting the welfare of citizens first, the PNP decides to tear itself asunder with internecine and fractious infighting.

The bickering and name calling will not endear the PNP to the electorate. It will only serve to reinforce widely held beliefs that the PNP is not ready to govern Jamaica and to take it to developed world status by 2030 – if that is even possible. Developed world status by 2030? I mean, given the current income per capita, crime, illiteracy statistics, is that even realistic?

But I digress.

The PNP has now lost a significant swathe of its talent pool. Paulwell and McNeill are experienced former Government ministers. Mikael Phillips has demonstrated that he is a talented politician with a promising ministerial future; someone who can help steer the PNP back into better times. Damion Crawford has been one to watch for years and must now show what he would be capable of as a Cabinet member. He cannot simply be just a young firebrand.

They all enjoy considerable support within the party but their followers and acolytes will now head to the lifeboats as the HSS PNP is about to plummet beneath the waves.

The JLP spent almost 20 years in the wilderness. So too, now, will the PNP.

Why?

Because its leadership cohort have forgotten that politics at its heart is about selflessness. It’s about serving the greater good and aligning behind an idea.

Dr Canute Thompson is an insightful and intelligent man and, as an advisor to the PNP, Golding et al should heed his words. He is acutely aware that the divisions in the party will see to it that it remains in opposition for a very long time, if not quickly addressed.

He knows that words such as “underhandedness”, “charade”, and “sabotage” are daggers plunged into the heart of the party founded by Norman Manley. Manley is no doubt turning in his grave with all this.

Thompson, perspicacious as ever, points out that the so-called big stars of the PNP have to sublimate their ambitions and serve something bigger than themselves. It has to be a case of “and first the victory”.

In the collective consciousness of Jamaicans, Andrew Holness is seen as more statesman-like than Mark Golding. Holness enjoys an unassailable favourability rating. The JLP is now viewed as the party of Government, committed to taking Jamaica forward.

The PNP is now seen as the party of failure. A party that presided over a time when many were young, saw the decimation of the entrepreneurial class, hyper interest rates and Jamaica in the doldrums. Now it is a party of division.

It is difficult to change people’s perceptions. Best not to fortify those impressions of unworthiness with infighting and effete leadership.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

The way it stands now, Andrew Holness will have a full head of grey hair and his back bowed before he leaves office, after seeing 84 Hope Road turned into a museum of what was once a political party that was inviolable for a large part of the 20th Century.

What do the great men who helped fashion and make the PNP such a formidable force think now?

Men like PJ Patterson, Burchell Whiteman, John Junor, Arnold Bertram, KD Knight.

It is disconcerting to get to the evening of your years and watch that noble and nation-changing work unravel. So sad.

When the funerals come, many of the PNP’s leadership of this era will be sitting in pews overcome by sorrow, contrition, telling tales of these men who went before them, yet they would have contributed to the vanquishment of the PNP;  seeing to it that it is now a moribund husk of a party.

Those in the lower orders of the party are looking on and thinking the cause is now hopeless. Who can lead us out to a better and new dawn?

It would have taken Mark Golding a minimum of two years to sort out the party and get it battle ready. However, he should have made his intent clear right from the get-go. Many see him as too dithering and ponderous. This is more evident with the match-up against Andrew Holness. He cannot afford to waste time. There is no honeymoon period for him. He has to slim down and get into that armour and lead his troops – those who have his back and the disgruntled ones.

At the end of the day, people follow you if you can demonstrate clearly that there is something in it for them. Getting support for perpetual losers is a big ask.

It is wise for Lisa Hanna to keep her counsel at this time. To show her hand too soon is fraught with danger. Best give it another year and use the time bolstering her position in her constituency.

Lisa Hanna is looking like a champion who can mount up and lead the forces outside the castle gates. But she must not rush the moment. It is wise for her to keep her counsel at this time. To show her hand too soon is fraught with danger. Best give it another year and use the time bolstering her position in her constituency.

Better to be called than to stridently proclaim your desire for power. That’s precisely why a certain faction in the PNP has been unable to rise.

Golding has to expunge the bile and puss from the party by exhibiting will, fortitude, charisma and the ability to foster inclusiveness. He has to come at his task as the anointed ‘Chosen One’. Failure to do so will see him relegated to political hades and his factotums unable to rise from the political underworld. History will lay the blame at their feet for the demise of the PNP.

Reading the statement from the want-away VPs is instructive and a study in how to implode your political party.

Well, this one is kind of obvious: “The most recent Achilles heel of the PNP has been the disunity that has plagued the party.”

OK.

But here are the fingers around the handle of the knife. Is this the mortal wound?

“Despite all the reasonable efforts to broker a platform of unity, there were otherwise covert attempts to sabotage the goal of peace and harmony with a plan to horde the available positions in line with the previous public statements made by the leader, who pronounced a lack of trust for persons who did not support him in his campaign leadership and his preference to surround himself with only individuals who overtly endorsed his candidacy.

“The level of disunity has deepened since the most recent internal election, where the victor has seemingly not acknowledged that unity is ultimately the responsibility of the victorious.”

Ouch!

Portia Simpson, former president of the People’s National Party.

It was said that Portia Simpson Miller was unsophisticated, not sufficiently educated and lacked statecraft. Right about now she is looking like one of the best leaders the PNP has produced and someone guaranteed to bring home victory. Since her absence from the political arena, the PNP has not fared well. In fact, it is in interminable decline with no one seemingly having her ability to connect with Jamaicans.

Perhaps those in the PNP leadership should “draw her tongue”. What they would give now to have someone of her political star power.

Portia was a genuine person who always had the less fortunate at the forefront of her mind. Under her leadership the party was reasonably united, enabling her to throw off challenges from Dr Peter Phillips.

Why?

Because as PNP members and supporters knew very well, and Andrew Holness observed, she was a metaphor for the hope and strength of Jamaican people by attaining the highest office. She never once succumbed to abject defeat in a general election with her at the helm.

The PNP now faces the prospect of holding just half the seats that it has today at the next general election.

Who is that metaphor in the PNP today?

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