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Why I am supporting Peter David Phillips

Floyd
Morris

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

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Most Jamaicans by now would know that I was born and schooled in a People's National Party (PNP) home. My mother, Jemita “Sister Din” Pryce, has been a member of the PNP from 1944 and she has been a loyal and faithful supporter, even in her 90th year on Earth. I was exposed to her group meetings and writing up 'voter's guide' from a tender age and was out on the battlefield with her in 1980 handing out various literature on the PNP.

But it was not until I went to The University of the West Indies in 1993 that I started to study politics in a serious way. Having read varied literature on the political process of Jamaica and getting a clearer understanding of the philosophy of democratic socialism, I decided that this is the political organisation with which I want to identify. So, whilst my socialisation influenced my thinking, academic research brought me solidly in the belly of the PNP.

I make reference to my antecedence because your philosophical groundings are supposed to guide you in your political decisions. I am an unrepentant democratic socialist, and that is why I am a member of the PNP.

My decision to support Dr Peter Phillips starts here, because whilst Dr Peter Phillips embraces the market as the means of managing the economy — a view that I also share — he believes that we must use social policies to bring about social justice and equality of opportunities for our citizens. I see eye to eye with Dr Peter Phillips on these issues, and he has put forward a plethora of initiatives to advance these objectives if he is given the opportunity to be the prime minister of Jamaica. These ideas are contained in the covenant that is currently making the rounds in the PNP and will be the compass for a future PNP Administration.

Take, for example, his intention to make the first family member to attend a university in Jamaica receive full scholarship. This resonates with me because I believe that education is quintessential to transformation and sustained economic empowerment.

In his capacity of leader of the Opposition and president of the PNP, Dr Peter Phillips has tasked me with the responsibility of developing a compendium of initiatives to drive the disability agenda. These have been done and submitted to him and the spokespersons' council. I can say without a shadow of doubt that under the leadership of Dr Peter Phillips as prime minister of Jamaica concentrated focus will be placed on people with disabilities. I believe this because, in his previous ministries, he demonstrated care and support for this group. He was the first minister to bring in accessible buses in the Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation in 2002 to transport persons with disabilities in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region.

I cannot speak about the supportive approach of anyone else in this PNP race because if I am to go by the responses to a recent release of a picture showing my eyes fixed on a phone with Lisa Hanna and Natalie Neita, then some of the unpleasant comments made by supporters of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the 'Rise Campaign' are indicative of the antiquated and non-progressive views they have of individuals with disabilities. I, therefore, have to stand with a man who believes in what I believe and what I am fighting for.

Integrity in public life is axiological for me. Whosoever ventures in public life must do so with honesty and probity. Whilst I have no questions about Peter Bunting and his integrity, I am extremely impressed by the fact that Dr Peter David Phillips has been in national politics since 1989 and, up to this point, no one has placed any question on his integrity. At a time when the issue of corruption has brought about a stench across the land, and we see individuals enriching themselves with public funds, I have to support a man who is impeccable in this regard. Please be reminded that he released the summary of his assets and liabilities and we had to wait for the prime minister to do so. If you are the prime minister, you must lead in abiding by the law, not breaking it. Dr Peter David Phillips has led in this regard.

I have been schooled in a fine tradition of valuing loyalty. The fact is that Dr Peter Phillips has been a loyal and faithful soldier of the PNP. From the moment he answered the call of former Prime Minister Michael Manley to venture in national politics in 1989, he has been very loyal and faithful to the PNP and Jamaica. He has never quit from the movement, and he has stood with it during the turbulent times. In fact, he has worked with all our leaders since 1989 to build the organisation which has resulted in the victories of 1989, 1993, 1997, 2002, and 2011. In fact, Dr Peter Phillips was the general secretary for the PNP in 1993 when the organisation demolished the JLP 52-8 in that national election — the largest margin of victory for any political party in Jamaica to date.

One must never forget that after former Prime Minister Bruce Golding was on cruise control, and no one thought that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) could lose any future election, it was Dr Peter Phillips who came to the Parliament with that nuclear bomb about Mannatt, Phelps and Phillips, the law firm that was engaged to lobby the US Administration to abandon extradition charges against the JLP's west Kingston strongman, Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The questions posed by Dr Phillips rocked the political landscape and triggered a political firestorm that resulted in the Government having to establish a commission of enquiry in the Mannatt, Phelps and Phillips affairs which led to that erudite and astute lawyer, K D Knight QC, telling then Prime Minister Bruce Golding to “pack your bags and go!” Prime Minister Bruce Golding had to resign ultimately. All of this had its genesis with Dr Peter David Phillips, and I see him on a similar trajectory when he came to the Parliament in March of this year and raised questions about suspected corrupt activities taking place in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information. The prime minister later received the resignation of the then minister of education, youth and information and we have subsequently learnt of a cesspool of corruption taking place across the JLP-led Government.

When we elect our leaders, we do so for them to fix the problems that bedevil our society. In every PNP administration since 1989, Dr Peter Phillips has been tasked to fix various challenges confronting the country. Whether it be the problems facing the health sector, the housing crisis that confronted the country after the Edward Seaga Administration of the 1980s, the transportation nightmare that was inherited after the Seaga Administration, the rampant drugs trade that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, and the economic crisis that placed the country on the edge of the economic precipice in 2012, Dr Peter Phillips has answered the call and fixed those problems. All the leaders in the public and private sectors locally, as well as those in the multinational institutions, have all credited Dr Phillips for his role and pulling back Jamaica from plunging over the economic precipice.

I have to also give kudos to Dr Peter Phillips for the quiet but efficacious manner with which he has gone about dealing with candidate selections for constituencies across the island. For the past four election cycles the PNP has had a number of challenges with internal selection for constituencies — the last of which was 2016 — and the public should recall the tensions that developed in the movement as a consequence of the selection mechanism. It is the first in about 20 years I have seen the party move to identify candidates well ahead of an election and there are candidates in 57 of the 63 constituencies. This is most commendable and impressive, and I have to support a man who I believe is building organisational machinery that will be able to beat the JLP in the next election. It is organisational work that wins election, not just the personality of an individual. If that were so, we would have won every election contested by my queen, the charismatic Portia Simpson Miller.

Finally, I must say that I am supporting Dr Peter Phillips because of the respect that he has shown me over the years. Respect begets respect. Even when I disagree with Dr Peter Phillips he has consistently shown me respect. Those who venture in politics must make respect a feature of their daily engagements because it is people whom you seek to represent. One must not wait until he or she is striving for political power before you start displaying respect to those you come across. People will see through you like a mirror.

Dr Floyd Morris is an Opposition senator and spokesperson on social security. Send comments to the Observer or morrisfloyd@gmail.com.


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