Fri | Sep 24, 2021

‘PNP needs Jesus’

Political party is its own worst enemy – charge insiders, analysts

Published:Sunday | July 18, 2021 | 12:53 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer
Dr. Peter Phillips
Dr. Peter Phillips
Damion Crawford
Damion Crawford
Mark Golding
Mark Golding
Donna Scott-Mottley
Donna Scott-Mottley
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With no recorded political ambition, Jesus – who Christians believe to be the Messiah and Saviour of mankind from sure destruction – is being called on by senior members to rescue the People’s National Party (PNP). Last week, the 82-year-old PNP...

With no recorded political ambition, Jesus – who Christians believe to be the Messiah and Saviour of mankind from sure destruction – is being called on by senior members to rescue the People’s National Party (PNP).

Last week, the 82-year-old PNP once again exposed pungent political wounds of past and present internal conflicts, which led to the resignation of all three vice presidents, and its chairman.

This was the latest in a long series of political backstabbing, disunity and distrust rocking the party, despite constant talks to heal wounds.

The Sunday Gleaner learnt that the decision of the four (Mikael Phillips, Damion Crawford, Dr Wykeham McNeil and Phillip Paulwell – chairman) “was an act of capitulation” to the party’s leadership which is described as “sailing on shallow internal political waters and a deep distrust”.

PNPYO president, Krystal Tomlinson, also resigned.

According to inside sources, in the build-up to the upcoming September annual conference, several deals were being made to settle leadership sores that have festered from massive political bruising over several internal leadership contests in the last decade. Among the deals was that the “charismatic but unpredictable” vice president Crawford would write a letter stating his position of not running for the post this year, despite giving that commitment verbally to party president Mark Golding.

Paulwell was charged with securing the commitment letter from Crawford.

Crawford yesterday said he wrote the letter to Paulwell indicating his position but not on the request of anyone.

“I wrote a letter to Paulwell, not on anyone’s request, that I wasn’t offering myself. On June 1st, I indicated same to the leader via WhatsApp that I have no intention of moving on after August. He responded, understood. It was sent at 8:11 a.m.,” Crawford told The Sunday Gleaner.

“I volunteered, for the purpose of peace, to step aside. The leader and those negotiating on his behalf knew it to be true and I was holding no one to ransom. I offered up the spot and that was it. I told the leader directly that I would give up my spot.”

WANTED A FEMALE VICE PRESIDENT

Yesterday, a senior party source called on Jesus to save the political party.

“Only Jesus can save them right now. And is not to save them from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) but Jesus is needed to save them from themselves,” the elder Comrade said, providing insights into the recent conflict.

Golding, the source said, expressed a desire, as part of the unity efforts, to have two supporters among his cadre of vice presidents and two non-supporters. Those efforts did not include the return of Paulwell or Crawford.

“Discussions were around Mikael Phillips and Wykeham McNeil. Golding said that he wanted a woman among the vice presidents, and Senator Donna Scott-Mottley’s name was proposed. Nobody wanted a challenge. Everybody felt that a challenge would lead to further political stench. With the nomination of Norman Scott, that would have completed the four vice presidents,” said the source.

But the Golding team became uncomfortable.

“Mikael, Wykeham and Donna all supported Peter Phillips, and Lisa Hanna [in past leadership contests]. But Golding knew that all three were more party people than part of any team. When Ian Hayles and Eugene Kelly were nominated, everyone started pointing fingers. It appeared, rightly or wrongly, that while Golding was OK with Mikael, Wykeham and Donna, the nomination of Hayles and Kelly were seen as betrayal. So everybody threw in the towel,” said the source.

Inside information also suggested that Scott-Mottley felt her nomination would exclude McNeill, as only Phillips was safe.

Another long-time Comrade also called on Jesus.

“Only Jesus can tell the first three that Hayles’ and Kelly’s nominations were not part of a plot. Jesus has to be in the same room with them. Because if he ever turns his back, nobody will believe a word he says. Nobody believes or trusts anyone in the party,” concluded the source.

The PNP’s unity efforts are being headed by former general secretary Maxine Henry-Wilson.

Brown University Professor Anthony Bogues has agreed to chair the political organisation’s policy/vision commission – the powerful body that heavily influenced the celebrated government policies of the 1970s.

Today, to senior members’ chagrin, the PNP is being referenced as part of the country’s “entertainment sector”, which has now been given conditional reopening since last year’s outbreak of COVID-19.

Following last week’s resignation of Phillips, McNeil, Crawford and Paulwell, the PNP now has four new vice presidents in Kelly, Scott, Hayles and Richard Azan.

“I am very glad that Richard Azan is the nominee who stepped in to replace me. There is no better party person in that group like Richard Azan. He may have supported who he wants to support, but he is a PNP. Plus, he is the only certified and demonstrated party worker in that group,” Mikael told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.

He refused to be drawn into the newest political melee of the PNP, but said “Jesus would not be a bad thing right now”.

PNP must focus on the mission, says Dr Phillips

Mikael Phillips’ father, who has been part of three leadership races in the political party, told The Sunday Gleaner that the PNP must focus on its core mission and resolve the internal issues.

“There is a leader, and an executive. That’s part of the responsibility that falls to those who occupy the senior positions of trust in the party,” Dr Peter Phillips shared.

“Understanding the sense of mission is very important, which is that the party exists not for itself, not for the individuals there but to serve in nation building on behalf of the majority of the people. And once that mission is kept in view, then it can’t be a matter of factions, and one side against the other. It must be a matter of what is in the best interest of the country,” he stressed.

According to the immediate PNP past president, the party must take into account all the diverse views and mould them into a single agent of change and transformation on behalf of the people.

“That’s the task,” he said.

Phillips said since stepping down as leader last year, he has been very careful not to interfere in the internal affairs of the party and has “refrained from both public and private commentary to allow the leader and team total freedom to carry out their duties”.

Commenting on past acrimony from contests in which he was involved, he said both himself and former president Portia Simpson Miller “demonstrated the capacity to work with each other despite the contests”.

“We were able to find a way to work with each other. We found a way not only to work together in the party, but we also worked closely together to effect a serious rescue of the Jamaican economy in the period; we pulled together in what was a tenuous and difficult time for the country,” he pointed out.

During his tenure, Dr Phillips said he made efforts to bring all sides together.

SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS

Jersey City University Professor Jermaine McCalpin said the PNP is suffering from many things, including lost identity and unforced errors.

“Many of the problems in the PNP are self-inflicting wounds. It’s not an enemy from outside, it’s from within. It’s been reeling from disunity and this en masse resignation, contrary to what it does want to say explicitly, is that it’s an indictment against the party leader,” the professor told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.

The party, he said, has been reeling from the wounds of many conflicts and contests, and finding itself in unfamiliar territory of being the losing party.

“The PNP needs to make an honest assessment of where it is, and not another political assessment of why it lost the election. And part of that assessment has to be why the PNP has been moving away from left and more towards centre left. And it has been doing so since [Michael] Manley returned to power in 1989,” McCalpin expressed.

Although the PNP claims to be grounded in democratic socialism, the professor enquired about the ideologues who are today espousing those views.

Jovan Johnson

contributed to this story

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com