Phillips stays!

NEC to approve resolution backing embattled Opposition Leader

BY HG HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 14, 2019

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WHEN the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) meets in a special session today, one thing is certain: Dr Peter Phillips' neck will not be placed on the chopping block.

The PNP president is expected to receive the overwhelming backing of NEC members in the verbal festival at The University of the West Indies, called, among other things, to essentially review the party's loss in the April 4 by-election in the Portland Eastern constituency. In that election, the Jamaica Labour Party's Ann-Marie Vaz upset the popular and likeable dreadlocked university lecturer and established businessman, Damion Crawford to win a seat that had virtually become a PNP fiefdom for three continuous decades.

The vacancy arose following the killing of incumbent MP Dr Lynvale Bloomfield in February.

Calls have been made near and far for Phillips to step aside and allow for a more popular leader who will grab the imagination of Jamaican voters as, according to opinion polls done recently, the former minister of finance and planning and respected public servant does not enjoy favourable ratings, particularly when he is put up against Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

The NEC, the party's second-highest decision-making group, will hear from Dr Phillips about his intentions to lift the struggling party, which once touted democratic socialism, a few steps up the national political ladder.

A highly placed source told the Jamaica Observer that a resolution will be moved, with support from those backing Dr Phillips, for him to continue as party president, despite factions in the party suggesting that his time has passed and he should make way for younger potential leaders.

Dr Phillips, 69, has been president of the PNP since 2017, after Portia Simpson Miller, the then president, led the party to a surprise defeat in the February 2016 General Election.

It is expected that Dr Phillips will speak about the party's performance in Portland Eastern, and outline his own aims and objectives for the organisation heading into an uncertain period of politicking.

Indications are that calls will be made for the party's secretariat to be strengthened, while there have been some who believe that General Secretary Julian Robinson should vacate the position and make way for someone who is more experienced in running a secretariat.

Party officials have stated that while Robinson, in their estimation, is good as a Member of Parliament, his performance as general secretary has fallen below the expected mark.

“Julian is what some of us consider a first class MP,” one former Cabinet minister told the Sunday Observer. He is performing above expectations and even his constituents are appreciative of the efforts that he puts in to make their lives better. But he does not yet have the material to serve as the kind of general secretary that the party requires.

“The situation today calls for someone who is willing to take things on his own, and rebuild certain structures that have broken down over time,” the senior PNP official said.

Among the names that have been mentioned as possible replacements for Robinson, should the party ask him to step aside, are former PNP Youth Organisation President Basil Waite, who is also seeking to run as the PNP's rep for St Elizabeth North Eastern in the next general election; former General Secretary Peter Bunting, who was the man in charge of the secretariat when the PNP choked the JLP 42-21 seats in the 2011 General Election; and Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Donna Scott Mottley.

“Any of those would be good for the organisation at this time,” one female candidate told the Sunday Observer.


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