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The PNP empire's stratagem is a ghost of its former self

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, November 12, 2017

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Dignity does not consist in possessing honours, but in deserving them. — Aristotle

The People's National Party (PNP) suffers with stage four Jamaica House Withdrawal Syndrome; therefore, it will stop at nothing to regain State power. Recall chairman emeritus of the PNP, Robert “Bobby” Pickersgill, told the country some time ago: “We believe it is best for us to form the Government; therefore, anything that will lead us or cause us to be in power is best for the PNP and best for the country.” Believe him!

Wounded PNP

The political whipping in the general election of February 2016, the trouncing in the local government election of last November, and the thrashing in the by-election in St Mary South Eastern, just under two weeks ago, plus its numerous and long-standing internal fractures have resulted in great injury to Norman Manley's party. No one with a modicum of political sense would have been surprised, therefore, at the demonstrations in sections of St Thomas and St James West Central last week. A wounded animal does what a wounded animal does.

Last Sunday, in my The Agenda piece I said, among other things: “The political daggers are drawn, according to the tweets of my fine-feathered friends. The birds warble that feverish attempts are being made by the political Praetorian Guard to shield Peter Phillips from an inevitable internal backlash. The birds sing that reports in the media last week that Dr Phillips was blindsided by news that Dr Alexis wasn't a Jamaican citizen is one of the strategies that has been dispersed.”

A drowning PNP will latch at any political straw. Deflecting attention away from the leadership and organisational crises in the party by creating public dislocation is an old PNP ploy from the 70s, which the party has evidently resurrected. I believe this is the white horse of the PNP's four-pronged political nightmare stratagem.

Public Ryan?

Omar Ryan said on Television Jamaica last week that he organised the St Thomas demonstration. Why did he not also declare to Jamaica that he has connections to the PNP? A Facebook post from D K Duncan's account last week revealed that Ryan was a horse from his stable. Among other things the post said: “This is Omar Ryan. A young, bright lawyer and also one of young men I have been mentoring in political organisation.”

Were the demonstrations in St Thomas last week Ryan's rite of passage? Or is Ryan merely a canary in a coal mine? If yes, I am sure Dr Duncan will update the public on Ryan's 'progress'. Poet and playwright Oscar Wilde said, “Their thoughts are someone else's opinions. Their lives a mimicry.” Is this what is happening to Ryan?

In his seminal work The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli spoke about the use or more so abuse of impressionable minds through an exploitation of what he called the “geography of their passions”. The PNP, for decades, has been a party steeped in emotionalism, fluff, and razzle-dazzle and less about economic pragmatism. I believe this is the red horse of the PNP's political stratagem.

What are Dr Duncan's political bona fides to provide political mentoring, some might ask? This snippet from a letter he wrote when he and a fellow Comrade, Ian Hayles were involved in a bitter public squabble is instructive. Duncan wrote, among other things: “This year marks 45 years since my commitment to the struggle for social justice and the process of national development led me to Michael Manley and the People's National Party. In that period I served the party as national organiser, general secretary and campaign manager before accepting the invitation of the people of St Andrew East Central to enter electoral politics. My most recent stint of service to the party has been as the Member of Parliament for Hanover Eastern and chairman of Region 6, which comprise the parishes of Hanover, St James and Westmoreland.” ( The Gleaner, August 20, 2015)

One would have expected Duncan to have blazed a trail of enviable successes in the political arena. That is not the case; in fact, the opposite is true. Over the last 40 years, the PNP's Dr D K Duncan, Arthur Jones, and current Member of Parliament Dr Peter Phillips have represented St Andrew East Central.

An article in The Sunday Gleaner of January 15, 2017 told us about the sordid state in which residents of “Frog City” live. It said, among other things: “Residents who joined in the discussion said the housing plan has been touted for more than four decades, but hope was revived in 2002, when it was announced in Parliament that work would have started that year.

“One resident, 48-year-old Mary Brown*, said she has been hearing about the plan since she was a little girl.

“Brown wants to believe it will happen, and hopes it will, but has doubts that it ever will.

“ 'You know how many persons dead and gone since we have been hearing about this. Boy, I just don't know,' Brown told The Sunday Gleaner as she pointed out that very little has changed since the last time our news team visited the community four years ago.

“The open lot was being used as a public latrine and the air was heavy with the smell of excrement. The smell extended to the school which is named after National Hero Norman Washington Manley.

“In the past four years, three additional classrooms have been built at the school, but the plastic (scandal) bags containing human waste still find their way over the wall and on to the school compound.

“An informal garage, which was in its infancy outside of the school walls four years ago, has now expanded and old decrepit vehicles and parts are everywhere.

“Sections of the open lot in the community are now used as a dumping ground for old household equipment.”

Is this the syllabus being studied by Omar Ryan and others under the careful tutelage of Dr Duncan?

Chigwell, Oh, Chigwell

Duncan and the PNP did not treat the people of Hanover Eastern any better than those of St Andrew Central. This article in The Gleaner of November 1, 2012 related the sad state of affairs:

“Thirty-three years after being declared a condemned area by the Government of Jamaica, the district of Chigwell, Hanover, remains fully occupied, and there is very little indication that this will change anytime soon.

“In the deep rural farming community, which is best known for its long history of flooding — inclusive of the devastating flood rains of June, 1979 — residents are today divided as to whether or not relocation is in their best interest at this time.

“However, for George Wilson, a farmer, whose house and crops have been inundated on numerous occasions, he is ready to walk away from his beloved village and try life elsewhere — if proper provisions are not put in place.

“ 'I do not want to stay here until we are washed out again,' said Wilson. 'The Government needs to follow through on the latest announcement they made two years ago and make proper provision.' “

Citizens of Chigwell and other sections of Hanover Eastern said in the media on numerous occasions that Dr Duncan had been 'missing in action' from the constituency. The Gleaner's reporter who wrote the sad tale about the suffering of the people of Chigwell was not treated to an opposite view as evidenced in these comments: “Efforts to get an update as to what plans the current Government has in place for Chigwell and the long-standing relocation plans proved futile, as repeated attempts to contact Dr D K Duncan, the Member of Parliament for Eastern Hanover, failed.”

Failure has been near-romanticised in much of our political folklore and various modes of communication by the PNP. This, I believe, is the black horse of the PNP's political stratagem.

Is this the script from which Omar Ryan and others are being coached by the former Minister of Mobilisation, D K Duncan?

Disruption and dislocation

Dozens of trees were cut down. Children from several communities were prevented from attending school. Citizens who suffer with high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases who had medical appointments at Princess Margaret Hospital and other clinics were forcibly locked in their communities. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by the State to clear illegal roadblocks. Will the organisers of the demonstrations compensate the innocent who are mere victims of their vaunting ambitions?

Then this frightening headline, 'Five injured as tree falls on car in St Thomas protest' flashed across The Gleaner's website and made the rounds in other media.

“Five people have been rushed to hospital with injuries after a tree fell on the vehicle in which they were travelling along the Arcadia main road in St Thomas.

“It is reported that about 10:30 this morning, a grey Honda Civic was travelling in a westerly direction when the tree fell, crushing the front end of the vehicle and injuring all five occupants. The tree was being cut down, allegedly by residents, to block the main thoroughfare as part of a protest over the poor state of the roads in the parish.

“In other parts of the parish, residents have set fire to debris and the police have called in reinforcement from the Mobile Reserve to try to restore calm.” ( The Gleaner, November 7, 2017)

I support the right of every citizen to demonstrate peacefully and lawfully. I cannot, however, countenance the actions of those who use illegal and violent tactics to disrupt the lives of law-abiding citizens. Roads which have been allowed to descend into a state of chronic deterioration, in many instances, over a period of more than 20 years cannot all be repaired in 20 months.

Last week, Dr Horace Chang, general secretary of the Jamaica Labour Party, opined that the PNP was responsible for the damage to St Thomas. Few rational people would disagree. Of the last 28 years, the PNP formed the Administration for 22.5. Notwithstanding that reality, I was glad that Dr Chang repeated the firm commitment of the Government “that the St Thomas road will be fixed next year”. I was similarly happy to hear National Works Agency's Stephen Shaw, manager of communication and customer service, say that additional roadwork will be done next year in western Jamaica.

Bad card

Those of us who are adroit at reading the political tea leaves already know which crumpled card the PNP will play next from its antiquated political playbook. With salary negotiations for the public sector delicately poised, the PNP will soon begin to trumpet its political desperation through its trade unions conduits whose political antecedents are a matter of public knowledge. This is the pale horse of the PNP's political stratagem.

It is an open secret that many trade unions in this country are more concerned with the propagation of their party's agenda and less so the welfare of the workers from whom they collect union dues to keep their doors open and their lights on.

The birds shriek that another stratagem which the PNP will soon call into action is the use of extreme obstructionisms in Parliament. The birds tweet that, in the coming months, the PNP will use various methods to oppose the country's legislative agenda. The birds warble that this will be attempted with walkouts, political grandstanding, vulgar outbursts, threat of court action, and other devices that are not foreign to those who understand that when its former chairman said “anything”, he meant anything.

The PNP seems not to understand that the destruction of Jamaica will not assist them in their hankering for Jamaica House. Their obsession with their political ego prevents them from even hearing voices of reason from deep within. Recall that Derrick Kellier, former agriculture minister, summed up the rickety state of his party, inter alia: “ 'Our political machinery has broken down badly, and that's why we are where we are today… We will have to climb Mount Everest to get back to where we were,' Kellier told delegates at the party's regional executive council of Region Six meeting at John Rollins Success Primary School in Rose Hall, St James.

“ 'Going forward is not going to be easy… we are in a state of flux, we are all about power, personal power, and personal aggrandisement and one-upmanship, that is what we are about. We are no longer a cohesive force that can deliver the knockout punch to the Opposition and can spread the word of hope and progress to the people,' he said.” ( Jamaica Observer, May 30, 2016)

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don't strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt. — Unknown

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.

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