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PNP presidency not my focus

Paulwell says his preoccupation is with vice-presidency

Executive editor — publications

Sunday, July 29, 2018

It's not that Phillip Paulwell wouldn't be interested in offering himself for the leadership of the People's National Party (PNP). However, that could happen, he made clear, only if the current president, Dr Peter Phillips, decides to step down.

“My loyalty to him is unquestioned,” Paulwell stated emphatically in an interview with the Jamaica Observer last Friday at his law office in New Kingston.

At the moment, Paulwell says his preoccupation is with being elected one of the Opposition party's four vice-presidents at its 80th annual conference scheduled for September 14-16.

To achieve that, he intends to take what he calls his “I Connect philosophy” to the party's approximately 3,000 delegates over the coming weeks — a philosophy he has outlined in a one-page manifesto packaged with his biographical information inserted in a folder bearing his image for easy distribution.

“I'm going to every single delegate... My aim is to reach every one of them, whether together in a group or individually,” Paulwell shared, adding that his campaign will include “some innovations” which, however, he opted not to publicise now in order to give him an edge over his fellow contenders — Dr Fenton Ferguson, Dr Wykeham McNeill, Dr Angela Brown Burke, Mikael Phillips, and Damion Crawford.

“It's the first time that I think a candidate has published a manifesto, and in keeping with the new generation, it's not a 60-page document,” Paulwell said, displaying the campaign material.

“It is embodied in the term 'I Connect'. It speaks about some of my strengths, but what I want to get is a mandate from the People's National Party, because it is on that basis only that you can be held accountable whenever you seek election,” he explained.

Essentially, the slogan is broken down as:

Innovating strategies to maximise new and emerging technologies to secure victory for the PNP;

Communicating the party's agenda effectively to both internal and external publics;

Organising and mobilising supporters and the party's machinery to be election-ready;

Networking internally and externally;

Needs-assessing activities to capture and determine necessary interventions to empower the party's workers;

Energising the party base and motivate supporters to spread the PNP's message;

Canvassing continuously; and

Team building.

“Everything I have here I believe is doable, so that will be my job description when I'm elected,” said Paulwell, who served as science, technology and energy minister the last time the PNP formed the Government.

“I'm associated with technology, and I believe that our party really has not utilised technology, has not been able to achieve as, successful an e-platform as perhaps, the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party), and I want to not only catch up, but to surpass them,” Paulwell told the Sunday Observer.

Lifting his cellphone from his desk and pointing to the device, Paulwell said that there now exist basic programmes that the party's scrutineers can use.

“You can have your cellphone now and do active canvassing. This (cellphone) can tell you the precise location of an elector when you go to visit, it will enable you to input the details and hopefully the elector will also allow you to take a photo, and it will be able to transmit all that data back to central base. So this notion of paper and pencil is quite outdated. I don't think your modern canvasser wants to be saddled with that, and it is far more efficient in terms of getting the data and manipulating the data.

“In fact, the canvasser now can be a pollster, by us fashioning a questionnaire and doing a sampling, and once you input that data, immediately at central office you know the results,” he reasoned. “So I think we have to utilise technology better than we have.”

He recalled his involvement in liberalising the telecoms sector, pointing out that he actually started working on achieving that goal while he was executive director of the Fair Trading Commission, before starting his political career in 1995.

“I was the minister who decided that we could not have a monopoly situation in Jamaica, and not many people know that the licences that Cable and Wireless had, which were granted to them in 1988, gave them a 50-year monopoly, so we would not have been able to get out of those clutches until 2038,” he said.

“I had to be courageous because we were dealing with a significant family at the time — the Matalons,” Paulwell said, adding that many people had held the view that a small country could only establish a telecommunications system with a monopoly.

“I challenged that concept... to say that this is not so, and especially because the technology was advancing so rapidly with wireless telecommunications, I saw that you were able, in a small society, to have multiple players and that you restrict yourself unnecessarily if you were to be bound by one,” he explained.

“We were able to win support locally. I was able to convince the British Government because Cable and Wireless operated in the UK, but they were only able to operate there because they were able to displace British Telecoms, which was a monopolist, and they were facilitated by the Government. So it was quite ironic that they were saying to us in Jamaica you could only have one telephone company, yet in the UK they fought,” he said.

“I was also, at the time, president of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, so I was able to mobilise full Caribbean support. So there was pressure building against Cable and Wireless, and even though they started to pursue it legally they realised that it was a no-win for them because we had mobilised such opposition,” Paulwell said.

He recalled that the negotiations, which were held in Jamaica, were tough.

“There were a couple of times when we walked away, but they realised that it was important for their own PR and eventually we got what we wanted — full liberalisation.”

That is one of the achievements highlighted in his campaign material and which, he believes, adds to his suitability for the PNP vice-presidency a position that he wants to use to help return the PNP to State power.

“ I want to ensure that Peter Phillips becomes prime minister. I think he is capable; he has worked hard and it is deserved. After he becomes prime minister I might have to look at my own age, because I don't intend to be around so long as others,” said the 56-year-old Paulwell.

“I believe that I have achieved a lot and I'm grateful that I have had this opportunity. If I were to walk away now I would feel proud. Despite all the issues, I would feel proud of my achievements,” he said.

Asked what he would do if his vice-presidential bid is unsuccessful, Paulwell said he would serve his party in other capacities.

“For instance, there are a number of constituencies that we have to win to become Government; and win, lose or draw, I'm going to ensure that South East St Elizabeth, South West St Elizabeth, North West St Ann, East Rural St Andrew, West Rural St Andrew, Eastern St Andrew are constituencies that I am going to personally take on, regardless,” he said.

“I believe that even after September this 'I Connect' can be a rallying point for the party because that's what we need to do we need to connect to our base, to those who don't believe in the politics any more, to our Diaspora. That, I think, is going to be quite a statement going forward.”