Letters to the Editor

Can the PNP be more progressive?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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Dear Editor,

As People's National Party (PNP) leader Peter Phillips sweated profusely as he articulated his party's message to Jamaica, we are still left asking what difference will his leadership bring to the 79-year-old organisation.

The theme of the conference reflected the new mantra of the political movement 'A Jamaica that works for all', a sort of big-tent politics which is dissimilar to the populism of late. However, we have heard platitudes from politicians on both sides about building a better Jamaica, but this time around we did hear some contemporary issues and themes coming from the party's standard-bearer.

We heard a message centred on the theme respecting human rights of all citizens, inclusion of traditionally excluded groups into the effort of nation-building, protection of the natural environment from exploitation, a focus on the importance of policy rather than government-funded work projects, a willingness to listen to civil society and human rights groups, and changing laws around short-term work contracts to protect workers' rights. These were just a few things, but the most poignant were advancing human rights and workers' rights for young professionals.

The PNP is identified as a centre-left party. It will be interesting to see if the PNP will embark on creating the climate for social progressivism by making human rights a wedge issue between the two parties, not by vilifying the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), but by running a more socially progressive agenda around issues of human rights through the adaptation of a more progressive policy stance like their counterparts in Latin American and North America.

Will the PNP advance women's issues beyond talking about the Equal Pay Act of 1975? Will the PNP be for a woman's right to choose, expanding the types of couples protected under the domestic violence Act, creating comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that protects all citizens?

The PNP has been missing its wedge issue to distinguish itself from the JLP since it has moved to the economic centre. It could be beneficial for the PNP to become a more socially progressive party by using its big-tent politics to educate its members and supporters on the importance of diversity and social justice rights issues and how they are intrinsically linked to innovation and our collective economic outcomes.

Let us see what the JLP conference gives us.

Kevonne Martin





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