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PNP PICKLE

Opposition in turmoil over who should be its next chairman, general secretary

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

Friday, November 20, 2020

There are new indications today that the rift in the People's National Party (PNP) is about to widen as it prepares to elect a new chairman and general secretary at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on November 29.

The disunity is made even worse by reports that factions in the party worked to ensure its crushing defeat at the September 3 General Election to get rid of then President Dr Peter Phillips.

Jamaica Observer sources say an all-out battle is now under way as the party prepares to elect its next chairman and general secretary following the decisions by Fitz Jackson and Julian Robinson to resign from the two posts in the wake of the crushing 49-14 seat election defeat to the Jamaica Labour Party.

Recently elected president of the PNP, Mark Golding, has left no doubt that he wants his right hand man, Dr Dayton Campbell, to be the new general secretary and his campaign official Angela Brown Burke to be the first female chair of the 82-year-old party.

But there is a massive push back from the just under 330-member NEC, the party's highest decision-making body outside of its Annual Conference, with a move under way to deny Golding of his two picks.

Yesterday, senior PNP members declared that the party's new president does not have the right to determine the replacements for Jackson as chairman and Robinson as general secretary.

PNP sources, who identified themselves as “concerned members of the NEC”, noted that it is the constitutional body which elects general secretaries and chairmen, who in turn hold office at its pleasure.

“Left to the sole judgement of any party leader, the holders of these offices will tend to become puppets and surely, dictatorial practices will enter the running of the party affairs,” said the group, whose members were not named.

“There has been continuing debate that our party leader wants the NEC to respect his desire to have his nominees in these two offices. But we, as NEC members, believe democratic ideals must prevail, as has been the party ethos historically, and the president should never be openly involved in internal elections.

“We should never always subjugate our views because the party leader says so. Every member must have a voice, and that includes disagreeing with party leader or anyone else. In the past, robust internal debates and disagreements characterised the PNP and the instances of inappropriate media and social postings were far less then,” added the group of NEC members.

They noted that the general secretary is elected by the NEC and serves at its pleasure, while reporting to it and the party's Executive Committee.

“There have never been deviations. The general secretary should not be loyal to the leader alone, but also to the mission of organising a strong PNP. This does not mean the leader cannot influence the decision.

“We also firmly believe that the general secretary should be elected by the NEC, not ratified; that the incumbent should not be a Member of Parliament and that he/she should be a senator and minister when the party forms the Government,” declared the PNP group hours after a circulated e-mail claimed that senior members of the PNP worked to ensure the party's defeat at the September 3 poll as part of a long-term plan to get rid of Dr Phillips.

The e-mail purported to show threads of discussions with senior members of the PNP on how to get rid of Phillips and those who supported him in the 2019 internal election against Peter Bunting for the party's top job, as well as how to position themselves to ensure that they took control of the party after the expected defeat.

See related story:

Elect a general secretary who's not an MP, Burke cautions PNP