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Handling the Pearnel Charles heat!

Young attorney, budding politician follows his father’s footsteps despite the pressure

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

Sunday, August 10, 2014    

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PEARNEL Patro Charles Jnr has been under pressure for the last 35 years.

The attorney-at-law, who has put meaningful thought into starting a professional life in politics, was thrown under the microscope soon after his mother, Gloria Hanson Charles, brought him into the world.

Naturally, young Charles had no idea of what he was up against in his infancy, but as the years ticked away, he found out.

He, afterall, carries the name of the veteran trade unionist and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) politician who has tasted every sphere of Jamaican life and can relate to it in classy form.

Macedonia, St Ann-born Pearnel Snr, not only served as member of parliament for constituencies in St Thomas and Clarendon, but also as Cabinet minister under prime ministers Edward Seaga and Bruce Golding, the latter his brother-in-law who married his younger sister after meeting her at Pearnel's wedding.

Championing the cause of the workers of Jamaica through his exertion of energy at the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, Pearnel Snr weathered many storms, including narrowly escaping death while trying to represent workers at Alumina Partners of Jamaica in the 1960s, going up against then union guru Michael Manley, the former prime minister; and also being thrown into forced detention at the State's pleasure in 1976 at the height of a period of political stupidity called the State of Emergency, close to the bloody general election.

Now, Charles Jnr, despite all of his father's trials and tribulations, remains inspired by his senior, though admitting that things were still steamy in the kitchen.

"There is severe pressure, but again, I know nothing else but that pressure, because I was born into it, so for me the pressure is normal," Charles Jnr told the Jamaica Observer Press Club in an interview.

"I know nothing else but that. It's not just a political issue, its an issue that I have confronted in every sphere of life. I live in that kind of pressured environment, but I am blessed and highly favoured with parents and siblings, friends and mentors, who allow me to be myself and I don't feel like I am covered.

"I have no problem being shadowed by my father, because the relationship that we have is one wherein he pulls me up and I pull him up and so it really is something that you will have to learn from your personality and from your interactions to deal with. I think I have learnt to deal with it," the young Charles said.

As for whether or not he is a favourite among the Charles tribe of two other brothers and four sisters, all super-educated individuals, three of them medical doctors, one dentist, a computer engineer, and the other the holder of a PhD, the budding politician quickly clarified the matter.

"We have had this discussion so many times at the dinner table. If I could tell you about growing up in our home you would understand, and my brother, if he were here, would verify and ratify what I am saying. There is no favoruite... you don't become a favourite in the Charles home. When you are a boy you have certain responsibilities like milking the cow, and tying out goats - yes, in Kingston," Charles said of his father's insistence in giving the boys a taste of rural life that he enjoyed as a youngster, oftentime waking them up at 5:00 am by clanging a humungous bell used at party meetings for them to rise and feed the animals that he kept in the backyard.

"It's not a matter of being favourite, but our mother, and all respect to my dad whom I love very much, but our mother is that special ingredient in the formula that allowed us to be confident leaders in our fields, and so we never had an issue with being a favourite or you not getting special attention, because we were always focused on surviving in the home and achieving.

"When you have a brother or a sister who is achieving, you don't have time to say 'boy I am not the favourite', you just need time to work and become successful and we got that support from our parents," Charles Jnr said of the seasoned politician and his wife -- a registered nurse and entrepreneur who prefers to be behind the scenes, and who (along with daughter Carol) runs a nursing home -- Glo's Adult Care Centre in Kingston 8.

As for the political road that he is now clearing to race on, Charles Jnr is testing the surface as he walks, gingerly placing himself in a position to make the right decisions.

"My intention right now is to ensure that I actively participate in the process. I am now deliberating a number of activities and I am not in a positon to say with certainty whether I would be running or not running. What I can say with certainty is that I intend to do whatever is necessary in my power to see that the next election serves Jamaica's interest," said the JLP's deputy spokesman on national security.

Regarding talk that he is the front runner to become the JLP's caretaker for the West Rural St Andrew constituency, once dominated by the Jamaica Labour Party, Charles Jnr declined to comment, instead stretching his words to fit into a generalised environment of political possibilities.

Apart from his name being associated with the West Rural St Andrew seat, now represented in Parliament by first-time MP Paul Buchanan, the Campion College graduate is also said to be leaving his options open to go after his father's Clarendon North Central seat, if the veteran decides to opt out of elective politics by the time the next election, due 2016, comes around. By that time, the elder Charles would be 80.

But, like a watchful opening batsman in his first cricket Test match, Charles Jnr opted to play with his bat close to his pads.

"I have been to my father's constituency many times... I have spoken at schools there, but I do so all over. I am not naïve to think that people won't see my actions as having some kind of intention, but right now what I am about is participating at the level of making a positive contribution.

"What I want is for other young people to look on and say 'listen, he is making the sacrifice, he has made the step, possibly I can engage and be empowered to do the same'.

"I have been all over to speak at functions, address meetings, because the thing that you have to do is engage and for me, it doesn't mean that I have to define that in order for me to participate, I must be doing this with the intention of getting a seat. I have political ambitions, but those ambitions do not overcome me so much that I can't continue to work for the benefit of the party and the country," he said.

And is he at an advantage because of the already pronounced Pearnel Charles label?

"In some respects, you have an advantage, in that people will easily recognise your name. But in other respects you are at a disadvantage because people will immediately say 'well what have you done to get this, you are only getting it because of your name'."

Already past his target set to become a full-fledged politician, Charles is not daunted by that and will put even more energy into getting to the next phase of his professional journey.

"When I was 20 I set a target for when I was 30 I would want to become a politician. I am now past 30 and although I do set targets for myself, what I try to focus on is that judicious balance between allowing myself to successfully navigate the professional and the family life, and balance it with political ambitions.

"Political ambitions is finding that area to execute my purpose. Most persons would say now I want to become an MP or I want to become X or Y, but I think the kind of Jamaica we want to have in the next 20, 30, 40, or 100 years demands us to expand our thinking so that we can say to ourselves how are we going to find a way to build the trust that is necessary for politics to work, how are we going to find that niche where we can actually not be just naysayers, but the persons who actually say our legacy was that we can say we were able to move Jamaica progressively and positively, achieving a significant reduction in crime and major foreign investment. That's my ambition - to find that place, that platform," Charles Jnr said.

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