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'Whew! I'm just happy it's finally over'

PNPYO president says parent body's leadership contest made her cringe at times

BY VERNON DAVIDSON
Executive editor — publications
davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, September 09, 2019

When People's National Party (PNP) General Secretary Julian Robinson announced the results of the party's presidential election on Saturday afternoon, Krystal Tomlinson breathed a sigh of relief — not so much for the fact that Dr Peter Phillips had successfully defended his presidency against a robust challenge from Peter Bunting, but mostly because it brought an end to the campaign that has reopened deep divisions in the 81-year-old Opposition party.

“I'm just happy it's finally over,” Tomlinson, president of the outspoken People's National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO), told the Jamaica Observer at the National Stadium complex in St Andrew, where 1,427 of the party's delegates voted in favour of Phillips, outnumbering the 1,351 who opted for Bunting.

“It's been a very difficult time inside the PNP because it creates a lot of uncertainty about our ability to cohesively come back together afterwards,” Tomlinson said, adding that she cringed every time she heard “somebody made some disparaging remark about another team member”.

The contest, she admitted, also had her “worrying about how the dust will settle on the conscience of the Jamaican people”.

Tomlinson reiterated her view that Phillips remains “the ideal candidate to represent the People's National Party at this time. The delegates believe the same thing, and I'm sure that even those who did not vote in support of Dr Phillips will not withdraw their support from the movement, but will do all that they can do to piece the puzzle back together and present a whole, united image of the People's National Party for the Jamaican public”.

That, she insisted, is important, as the public must be convinced that the party is “ready and capable of leading them when the next general election is called”.

Asked whether the PNPYO has seen any positive response to a raft of recommendations it made earlier this year for major changes in the party's operation, Tomlinson said: “Yes, we have”.

“One of those had to do with the welfare of Comrades, and I'm happy to see that on both sides of the campaign just concluded, that issue featured prominently. So from Peter Bunting indicating that they were raising funds for a sort of welfare assistance programme and endowment fund for Comrades in need, and hearing, too, from Phillip Paulwell that some sort of insurance programme was being designed for Comrades, old and young, to benefit was really a good sign for us as a YO,” Tomlinson told the Observer.

“There were some shifts that we had asked for that we have since seen, and one I anticipate will come, now that this period has passed, [is] the reshuffling of our shadow cabinet. We had some ideas about how to reshuffle it, those were presented to the party leader in about April or May, but understandably that shift could not have happened until this [presidential election] concluded, so we're looking to see how those changes will be effected vis a vis our recommendations,” she said.

“Additionally, we made recommendations about scrutineers making sure that funding was properly available, management and monitoring of constituencies to make sure that MPs [Members of Parliament] are doing their job, and if you're not doing the job you can't be allowed to represent the party moving forward,” Tomlinson explained.

“So we've proposed three resolutions to be tabled for voting at the annual conference later this month, and if those are passed we're going to see MPs who are not fulfilling their constitutional obligations being pulled from the candidate list,” she said.

That proposal, Tomlinson accepted, was controversial, given that MPs are elected by the wider populace. However, the PNPYO president said that rule 121 of the party's constitution “indicates that where they aren't fulfilling specific obligations the party has a duty to pull them”.

One of those obligations, she said, is to ensure that candidates have functioning groups.

“Groups do the political education, groups do the political organising, so you can't expect to represent the party when you don't have groups to do the political work,” Tomlinson argued.

“Perhaps it won't be in force for the next general election... because, let's say, we pass it at the annual conference later this month and elections are called in March, that's not enough time to settle a candidate, but certainly, by the next set of constituency conferences anybody not meeting the requirement would be pulled,” she explained.

The youth organisation's proposals had rattled the PNP when they were delivered earlier this year. However, on April 16, the Observer had reported that some senior members of the PNP were siding with many of the proposals.