Peter quits

Peter quits

Former Opposition leader gives up chairmanship of St Andrew EC constituency

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, February 18, 2021

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FORMER president of the People's National Party (PNP) Dr Peter Phillips has provided the clearest signal yet that he is in the departure lounge of representational politics.

But the 71-year-old Phillips, who last week resigned as the PNP's constituency chairman for St Andrew East Central, is in no hurry to walk away from his people, and there is no indication yet as to who will replace him in what was once a PNP stronghold, but is now considered shaky ground based on the votes in the general election last year.

Phillips, who served as chairman for St Andrew East Central since 1994, is expected to remain as Member of Parliament for the constituency until the next general election is called.

The constituency executive has since selected councillor for the Maxfield Park Division Dennis Gordon to replace Phillips as its chairman, but the businessman will have to be confirmed in the post during a delegates' conference closer to the party's annual conference in September.

The PNP is also yet to decide if Gordon will be given the nod to be its standard-bearer in the next general election in a constituency which it has held for decades but which has seen a diminishing margin of victory in recent elections.

Phillips entered representational politics in 1994 when he replaced Arthur Jones as the PNP's candidate in the St Andrew East Central constituency, having already spent some five years in the Senate, and having served in the executive as a minister of state and a minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Having retained the seat by more than 5,300 votes in the 1997 General Election, Phillips won comfortably by more than 2,500 votes in four subsequent general elections, before getting home by less than 1,000 votes over the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) newcomer Jodian Myrie last year.

That 2020 election, which the PNP lost to the JLP by 49 seats to 14, signalled the end of a brief stint by Phillips as president of the PNP, a post that he was elected to in 2019, after two previous failed attempts at getting the party's top job.

Phillips also served as minister of health from 1995 to 1997 before being appointed minister of transport and works, and later minister of national security.

He last held the post of minister of finance and the public service after the PNP won the 2011 General Election and is often credited for moving the Jamaican economy from the brink of disaster to one of relative macroeconomic stability.

In a parting shot to his Comrades as he stepped down as party president, Phillips said: “The collective leadership of the PNP holds in its hands the stewardship of a vital national treasure which the Jamaican people have benefited from for over seven decades.

“When I speak of collective leadership here, I mean from party groups to regions to NEC (National Executive Council) to the party's executive committee. This treasure has been handed down to all of us in the movement by previous generations who have sacrificed, struggled, fought, and, in some instances, have paid the ultimate price with their lives.

“We must not take our responsibilities lightly. Without a viable PNP Jamaica will be a poorer place and, if on our watch we fail to keep our party alive and relevant, we will have proved to be unworthy of the stewardship that we exercise today.”


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