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PNP should tread carefully in electing new chairman, general secretary

Friday, November 20, 2020

Fresh from the recent election of Mr Mark Golding as its new president, the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is preparing to choose a new chairman and new general secretary at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting later this month.

The vacancies have arisen with the pending exit of Mr Julian Robinson as general secretary and Mr Fitz Jackson as chairman.

This newspaper reported on Sunday, and again yesterday, that Mr Golding is supporting Dr Dayton Campbell for the general secretary post.

Readers may recall that Dr Campbell was Mr Golding's campaign manager in the presidential contest.

We are told that Mr Raymond Pryce is likely to contend for the general secretary's position. Mr Pryce is said to have the backing of Ms Lisa Hanna, who was the defeated contender for the party presidency.

We are also told that two close allies of Mr Golding in the presidential contest — Dr Angela Brown Burke and Mr Anthony Hylton — have ambitions for party chairmanship, and that the formidable PNP vice-president, Mr Phillip Paulwell, who supported Ms Hanna, is contesting the chairmanship.

The contestants and their supporters know there can be only one winner for each post. But, as the PNP has experienced in recent years, the potential for irrational, long-lasting disharmony and bitterness from such contests should never be underestimated.

Obviously, the party should tread carefully as it sets about settling those crucial executive positions at month-end. For those of us looking on, it would appear that Mr Golding, who has pledged to address party unity as his first order of business, needs to be especially careful he does not — by word or deed — perpetuate division.

For that reason, we confess to being a little taken aback at what has been reported as Mr Golding's open advocacy for Dr Campbell in a radio interview. He is reported to have said: “He's a hard worker. He's very bright, savvy, and good with numbers. He's a good organiser. He entered the politics quite young, and some of the brashness of youth may have manifested at times, but since he and I have been working closely, I've been mentoring him and I've seen significant maturity emerging... So I'm hoping that the NEC will respect that choice and elect him (Dr Campbell) as the general secretary.”

That said, the contestants and their supporters are responsible adults and you would expect that they should be able to take a comment such as that in stride.

Crucially, as former general secretary and an authoritative PNP voice, Mr Paul Burke reminds us that the general secretary must always have the confidence of the party president.

“It goes without saying. It's an unwritten rule, because the general secretary protects a party president and can honestly and straightforwardly disagree in a one to one,” says Mr Burke.

As usual, this newspaper will watch with interest, always bearing in mind that the country needs a unified, coherent, well-organised political Opposition, especially in this time of COVID-19, which has triggered a crisis of unprecedented proportions in modern Jamaica.