Ill-advised challenge to the 'Go with Golding's wish

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Ill-advised challenge to the 'Go with Golding's wish

BY Lawrence Rowe

Monday, November 23, 2020

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On November 7, 2020, 52 per cent of eligible delegates at the People's National Party (PNP) conference (translating to 55 per cent of those who voted) elected Mark Golding as the sixth president of the party. With his victory, Golding inherited an officer core of 13, with only one publicly endorsing him; and a parliamentary Opposition of 20 (14 Members of Parliament and six senators), only five publicly endorsed him. Included in his inheritance is an executive committee and a National Executive Council (NEC) whose construction was heavily influenced to protect the Dr Peter Phillips-led presidency.

With the stocks possibly against Golding, real or perceived, in the eyes of an objective onlooker, he should be given an opportunity to unite and organise the PNP for the impending local government elections and beyond. With media reports surfacing that defeated contender Lisa Hanna has resigned as party treasurer, reportedly giving the PNP's executive and new leadership a free hand to choose personnel for key positions, there is also the anticipated resignations of Fitz Jackson and Julian Robinson as PNP chairman and general secretary, respectively.

It is not unreasonable for Golding to be allowed at least two people who, in his best judgement, share his vision to reshape the PNP as a viable political party. Of note, the newly minted president have expressed publicly his desire to have Dr Dayton Campbell and Dr Angela Brown Burke as general secretary and chairman, respectively.

The position of general secretary is one that requires a seamless relationship with the president. As a result, the National Executive Council, for at least three decades, has always, without a challenge, ratified the pick of the leader. During the presidency of Portia Simpson Miller, Julian Robinson was seen as Peter Bunting's successor; however, the party president desired Paul Burke. At the National Executive Council, Julian Robinson nominated Paul Burke as general secretary, ending all speculations that the convention would be broken.

Fast-forward to 2020, where we saw former Member of Parliament for St Ann North Western, Dr Dayton Campbell, securing 55 per cent of the votes for Golding making him victorious in his bid as president of the party. Dr Campbell first won his marginal parliamentary seat in 2011 by regaining it from the 2007 Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) win. He retained it with a swing against the PNP in 2016, but lost it when a former PNP activist entered as independent candidate and during a period when the PNP was trounced 49-14.

He has consistently demonstrated organisational skills, a renewed temperament, and the aptitude to function, even when others are asleep. The office of general secretary, now more than ever, requires someone who, in the immediate decade, is not actively engaged in a process to become or remain a Member of Parliament.

The office of chairman also requires a close working relation with the president and general secretary. Michael Manley was the first president of the party to have a chairman. That person was one of his best friends and schoolmate, David Coore, who was succeeded by founding member of the PNP and later Governor General Sir Howard Cooke. Following Cooke, Michael Manley's most trusted lieutenant and protégé, P J Patterson, became chairman of the party and was succeeded by his protégé Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill.

Pickersgill served P J and his successor, Simpson Miller, of whom Pickersgill was the closest of confidantes. When he retired, Fitz Jackson succeeded him. Jackson was campaign manager for Peter Phillips on his two unsuccessful runs for party president and one of his closest allies. In all these instances, the party president was given the chairman he or she desired. Mark Golding should be afforded the same privileges and courtesies of his predecessors.

Dr Brown Burke was the campaign director in Golding's convincing campaign and, like Dr Campbell, pulled it off. Her style and flavour calmly charted the winning course, bringing forces that once strongly opposed each other at one table. The office of chairman requires, among other things, a conciliator — a trait showcased by her.

She first entered the Lower House when Simpson Miller retired in 2017 and, amidst the trouncing of the PNP in 2020, increased her vote count.

It is widely speculated that PNP Vice-President Phillip Paulwell intends to run as party chairman. If successful, he will create another vacancy in the PNP — a position for vice-president. This clearly means that, at least in the immediate future, the PNP will not be allowed to settle and will further erode the little confidence the public has in it.

Paulwell was Member of Parliament; however, Brown-Burke has served as councillor, mayor and PNP vice-president. It is rumoured that their relationship, now strained, led to his run as vice-president in 2018, edging her out as a long-standing vice-president. If the rumours about their relationship are true, then it can be reasoned that his sole purpose to run as chairman of the party is more of a personal fight than an intention to provide the conciliation that the party currently needs.

During his 2018 run for vice-president he promised party workers a health insurance scheme — a very good idea, I must say, and with the adverse spate of the novel coronavirus, in which over 10,000 Jamaicans have contracted the virus, of which over 200 Jamaicans have so far died, he should focus his attention on delivering on that badly needed unfulfilled insurance plan.

Paulwell was a close confidant of Simpson Miller and is said to be the person that negotiated her transitioning of power to Dr Phillips. None of whom, while president, elevated him to the two other powerful officer corps roles.

Paulwell as campaign director before becoming co-campaign director in the recent general election demonstrated an inability to connect and organise the PNP to effectively participate in elections. The result has been bruising defeat. He, for decades, has been marred with a series of scandals, which, in the eyes of the public, is bad for good order. The Trafigura matter is still before the courts and he is also rocked by the adverse US visa issue. If these matters remain unresolved, the PNP runs the risk of a further erosion of the public's trust. Paulwell, having actively supported Hanna's failed bid, should take a cue from her and allow good order to prevail in the PNP. 

Lawrence Rowe is a 2017 prime minister youth awardee for community volunteerism and a former member of the People's National Party's National Executive Council. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or roweli24@yahoo.com.


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