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J'cans will not be fooled by any empty promise by PNP spokespersons

Raulston Nembhard

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The great hope of the People's National Party (PNP), the stodgy, redoubtable Dr Peter Phillips, has finally announced a slew of individuals for various positions in his pantheon of Opposition spokespersons. Why he waited this long is anybody's guess. The appointment of these spokespersons and his other duties as president of the PNP seemed to have impacted his attending to the people's business as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

It is befuddling and inexcusable that this should be the case since party matters should not trump one's essential duties on behalf of the people. Effective governance demands this. An apology for this lapse is lame, and it is for the people to take keen note and decide whether such behaviour is worthy of reward when they should be called upon to render a verdict on Phillips's stewardship.

A first glance at his shadow spokespersons immediately reveals two things. First, why such a large slate of candidates? Perhaps an answer to this is that the leader wants to put in place a more comprehensive and democratised Opposition structure with as wide a voice as possible. Not all of these spokespersons will be in a future PNP cabinet, but one fervently hopes that this large pantheon is not a harbinger of things to come if Phillips should ever have the honour and privilege to sit in Jamaica House as prime minister.

Second, Phillips did his best working with the material he had on hand. He has to infuse new life into the party while not appearing to make a decisive break with the past. He wanted to achieve a blend between the old and the young, the latter expected to bring revitalisation to the party with new ideas and fresh energy. Voices are already being raised as to why there are only four women in the coterie of spokespersons.

The attraction of young people is crucial not only to the PNP, but to other organisations, including the church. One of the problems that face mainstream churches is an aging population and the great difficulty to attract and keep young people within its walls. At 67, Dr Phillips is not a young man and has to be concerned about new blood in the party. In this vein it is quite noticeable and somewhat puzzling that the two Pry(i)ces — Raymond and Imani Duncan — two of the outstanding young people in the party who have a lot to offer, were not included.

Both individuals were once PNP senators, but now they are neither in the Senate nor in the select band of Opposition spokespersons. There is a great deal that is being made of Damion Crawford's ability to represent the party's message to the young people. He certainly has the gift of gab and has shown an ease of communication with Jamaicans in their native tongue, which does not come readily to others. But at times this has not worked in his favour as he has made intemperate remarks from political platforms — such as dutty Labourites — which did not endear him to many Jamaicans. He is older now and has had some time from the political fray for reflection. One hopes that this time around he will come more matured and seasoned, and thus avoid the many gaffes to which he has proven himself to be prone. Time will tell how important he will be to the revitalisation of the youth in the party. This will take greater sagacity and intellect than he has so far demonstrated.

The appointment of Mark Golding to the finance portfolio is a step in the right direction, he being a successful businessman and lawyer. One expects him to bring a certain intellectual grasp to issues affecting the economy and should be a strong contender to Finance Minister Audley Shaw.

Peter Bunting's appointment as industry spokesperson and Fitz Jackson as national security spokesperson were to be expected. One expects robust contributions from these two.

Given the hand he was dealt, Phillips deployed his team in the best and most strategic ways possible. He could not please everybody, and certainly did not. Now the hard work begins. Strengthened by their appointments and beginning to smell the halls of power, this newly minted team will be chomping at the bit to attain power. They will now promise Jamaicans a new heaven and a new Earth. I hope they will spare us the belligerence of opposing for the sake of opposing. It is not everything that has to be attacked; not every balloon needs to be pricked. Silence sometimes is indeed good policy. One should be strategic in one's pronouncements.

For the PNP this is especially so, for the party is not a mere neophyte to the Jamaican political process. They have been there before and we know their pedigree. They have been in power for 23 years of the last 28. Part of this legacy is often the hypocrisy they seem to exude when they criticise things that the Government is doing, but which they failed at or did not attempt to do when they held office. They had a lot of time to correct the wrongs and heal the breaches in government that they now often and eloquently criticise. The people will not be fooled by empty rhetoric and empty promises. The mood of the electorate today is to punish severely those who come with promises of performance when they themselves failed dismally to perform when they had the reins of power.


Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or