PNP must protect core principles, Phillips insists

PNP must protect core principles, Phillips insists

Opposition leader says party must not become a version of the JLP

Executive editor — publications

Monday, September 02, 2019

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Dr Peter Phillips is strident in his view that the principles and philosophy that have guided the People's National Party (PNP) since it was founded in 1938 must be respected and protected.

That is why he has been reminding Comrades about those values as he campaigns to overcome a challenge to his presidency mounted in June by Peter Bunting, the Opposition member of Parliament for Manchester Central and a former general secretary of the party.

In one such address, Dr Phillips, who has been leading the party since March 26, 2017, cautioned supporters to ensure that the PNP does not become a version of the governing Jamaica Labour Party.

It wasn't the first time that the Jamaica Observer heard this comment from the opposition leader, so in a recent interview at his office in St Andrew the newspaper asked him to elaborate.

“I believe that the People's National Party has historically been a vital part of the national political and social landscape and that the significance of the People's National Party goes beyond the fact that it has been a competitor for political office and to become government,” Dr Phillips said.

“The party has always sought power, not for itself or just because power exists, but for particular purposes. Now, the authentic PNP will remain true to those purposes. It will remain true to its traditions as a democratic socialist party... we're a people's party that's why we're named the People's National Party. But Norman Manley said that we need really to recognise and give priority interest to the poorest, the most marginalised, the most in need of social upliftment and that we are not to lose that focus, nor should we lose the focus that we are a multi-class alliance and therefore we should remain attractive to the middle class and the progressive investors in the society because we are, as I said, a national party as well. We believe in the solidarity of our nation and of all elements of the nation who are patriotic and committed to nation-building,” he added.

He explained that there are certain internal processes and commitments that are vital to the PNP, among them the party's commitment to integrity in the way it conducts itself, not only in relation to the guardianship and stewardship of public resources, “but integrity in personal conduct, which is why, for example, we have accepted and are implementing the anti-sexual harassment proposals coming from the women's movement in the party because it can contribute to changing the perceptions and behaviours in the country as a whole, and the party should be part of that, that's why we remain committed to integrity”.

The politics of participation, Dr Phillips added, is also a core belief of the PNP. As such, he pointed out that “if people are to follow the leader of a party they have to believe that our purposes are sincere, honest purposes”.

“We've always been committed to a rock solid notion of equality within the party. The very term Comrade was selected to indicate that every member of the party had the same rights and privileges within the party, and as a basic principle we operate on the basis of all for one and one for all,” the PNP president said.

That principle, he explained, manifests itself in a cooperative effort for the good of the party. So, for example, if there is a campaign in Portmore, or in Portland, or St Mary, or St Andrew, everybody makes a contribution in whatever way they can.

“No sacrifice counts for more than another person's sacrifice in the party. If you have dollars and can give dollars, give dollars. If you have energy and willingness to work, then give that energy,” Dr Phillips said.

“There are things like our commitment to political education over the years, which has always been the antidote that the party found — going all the way back to 1944 — to this tendency, the cynical tendency, to try to use money as a blandishment to secure political support. We need to remind ourselves that those are our traditions and that without those traditions, then we may lose our way and become like the other party in the country,” he said.

The PNP president, though, acknowledged that the political process “is beset with a growing doubt on the part of many citizens about the integrity of purposes”. That, therefore, should give his party enough reason to ask itself whether it has done enough political education over the years.

“My answer is plainly no, we haven't done enough,” he said, but argued that it was not unique to the PNP.

“I think a lot of progressive parties, in the wave of this triumph of globalisation and the market, have had a sense of this onslaught — driven by the big corporations of the world and by the conservative parties that have tried to roll back all the gains — that everybody has to just yield to the new market-driven individualism and that the only measurement of people's worth is in the amount of money that they have.

“I am unapologetically opposed to that kind of notion of a world driven by purely individualistic and materialistic concerns,” Dr Phillips declared, his voice and facial expression resolute.

Asked if he believes the PNP could successfully counter that wave of thinking, Dr Phillips said: “Well, look at it this way, there were people who in 1938 said 'Man, what kinda nonsense yuh talking about yuh want independence; look how strong the British Empire is, nothing will ever change that world. But we set out and we changed it.

“They killed Marcus Garvey with heartbreak, imprisoned him, but his ideas have broken out, and the principle of the equality of all races, and of black people in particular, is well established in the world.

“There are political forces in the world now in North America and Europe that are trying to reverse that set of gains driven by Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr, and others. However powerful they are, we will never yield to it, never ever! The truth of your cause is what must drive you to stand up, not the measurement of the power of those who are opposed to you.”

Asked if a victory for Bunting, on September 7 when the party's delegates are scheduled to vote, would be a signal that the PNP was going down the road he opposes, Dr Phillips responded: “I am sharing with you my principles and my beliefs and my view of the party. The other people have to speak for themselves and not me for them; and the delegates of the party have to make their judgement as to their own beliefs and commitments.

“I am not going to get into any pattern of trying to impute views to others because truthfully, I haven't really heard their views sufficiently.

“A philosopher, or a political leader, or a musician ultimately gets judged on a body of work over an extended period of time. So my notions here are not restricted to what has happened since June. I'm just saying I just don't know enough [of what Bunting stands for].”

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