The leadership race has not put Humpty Dumpty back together again

The leadership race has not put Humpty Dumpty back together again

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, November 15, 2020

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The blame of the antelope is on the hunter. — Kikuyu proverb, Kenya

All well-thinking Jamaicans want to see a strong Opposition. An ineffective Opposition does not benefit our country.

Member of Parliament for St Andrew Southern and new president of the People's National Party (PNP), 55-year-old lawyer and banker Mark Golding was issued his instrument of appointment as the new leader of the Opposition last Tuesday. He says that unifying the PNP is his number one priority. He has a very difficult task ahead.

He squandered a golden opportunity to gain some much-needed political points at this critical temperature-setting moment.

In his victory speech last Saturday at 89 Old Hope Road, the headquarters of the PNP, Golding said, among other things, “The delegates have made their mark for a leader who has a proven track record of delivering results, and a leader who is not divisive and is inclusive.”

Then, in his next breath, he said, “I wish Comrade Hanna was here, but I understand she had made a commitment to be in her constituency. If you were here I would have asked you to come forward and join me. Comrade, Lisa Hanna, thank you for a strong but collegial contest. Word is love.”

Who is the divisive, non-inclusive leader who does not have a proven track record of delivering results that the delegates did not choose as PNP president?

Golding touted party unity, but his 'throwing of words', as we say in local parlance, trumpeted an opposite reality.

Déjà vu?

Elementary political planning and strategising suggest that the PNP Secretariat should have secured an agreement prior to the presidential contest, which required that the victor and the vanquished appear on stage together after the results were confirmed?

Sources in the PNP say the Julian Robinson-led secretariat neglected to secure such an agreement.

Golding and Hanna on stage last Saturday in a genuine embrace would have communicated a far more convincing message of advances towards PNP unity than mere words and touting party unity by the victor.

It would have also communicated a departure from the sour atmosphere that the PNP was plunged into during and after the bitter 90-day leadership battle mounted by then Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting to dislodge then PNP president, Dr Peter Phillips, from his shaky presidential perch. That bitter and bruising contest a little over a year ago succeeded in creating, among other things, deeper divisions in the PNP.

Dr Phillips won by a mere 76 votes. Recall in his victory speech Phillips said, among other things: “This is not a time to celebrate and to leave out the others in the party. We must come together. We must work together. But we must work together as one. And we must work together with discipline, discipline, and manners towards each other.”

Phillips did not invite Bunting to join him on the stage. More ugly chords of disunity were ignited.

The irony is that Phillips's victory message centred on party unity. Sounds familiar?

Scholars in the area of political strategy say it is wise for the victor of a political campaign to demonstrate humility and magnanimity via believable words, but more importantly believable matching action.

Golding and the PNP need to understand that poppy show optics, plastic smiles, and constipated glad-handing cannot smother the reality of a deeply divided PNP.

The exposed underbelly

The trailer load of nasty social media posts about the personal lives and scandalous allegations about the transactions, private and public, of some of the principals and foot soldiers who supported either the Golding or Hanna camp further paraded the metastasising of fractiousness and factionalism in Norman Manley's party.

Some, for reasons best known to them, may well argue that the runny insults, smear attacks, and discharge of fetid effluent which resulted in the underbelly of the PNP, once again gushing out onto the public pavement, was the carryings-on of political minions, lieutenants, henchmen/women, and surrogates. But, on whose orders did these underlings act? Were they all on a frolic of their own? I rather doubt it.

From what I saw on social media, and materials which I have had sight of, much of the political puss spewing in the recently concluded leadership contest was not the work of peripatetic amateurs and political lone wolves. I am not suggesting that either Golding and/or Hanna had a hand in directing, funding, and/or giving any kind of approval in any shape or form to the numerous crude and vulgar activities of certain acolytes.

I submit, however, that the activities of their camp followers speak to deep structural cracks in the floorboards at 89 Old Hope Road. The divisions in the PNP will not disappear by simply shouting abracadabra, reciting platitudes, or 'throwing words' at vanquished opponents. Golding will have to do a tremendous amount of fence-building, internal repairs, and political therapy in short order.

The conspicuous physical distancing between the Golding and Hanna camp on the platform at 89 Old Hope Road last Saturday, and in the media pronouncements by spokespersons subsequently, confirm that the leadership race has not put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

There are loud whispers about Lisa Hanna's absence from Golding's installation ceremony last Tuesday. Last Tuesday's Jamaica Observer carried this headline: 'Lisa Hanna to miss Golding's [installation] ceremony'. The news item said, among other thing: “Lisa Hanna will miss this morning's [installation] of People's National Party (PNP) President Mark Golding due to illness. In a statement today, Hanna revealed that she was ordered by her doctors to stay home for the next four days due to severe chest cold and sinus complications.

“Hanna said that on receiving the invitation she called the incoming party leader to inform him and to extend her best wishes.

“Hanna and Golding faced off over the weekend to become PNP president. Golding defeated her by 296 votes.”

I sincerely hope Ms Hanna makes a speedy recovery.

Some traditional media reported that PNP Vice-President Mikael Phillips, who openly supported Hanna's bid for his party's top job, was the only notable member of Hanna's team who attended the King's House event. This sends a clear message to the country.

Golding needs to understand that the myth of “This is PNP country” is dead. We are now in an era of performance politics.

At King's House Golding spoke about keeping the Andrew Holness-led Administration on its toes. He needs to check the deformed feet of the PNP first.

Posts on social media by persons with umbilical connections to the PNP speak of demonstrations and petitions being formulated to protest/contest Golding's ascendancy to the PNP presidency. Is this a harbinger of more troubles?

The Opposition, like the governing Administration, has no time to honeymoon. Folks want bankable ideas, and timely implementation of policies and programmes that positively impact their pockets and dinner tables, not useless rhetoric. I suspect that even Peter Bunting knows that hot air and trivia will not entice folks to call for the PNP's return.

How might the PNP begin to get over its hurdle of continual political self-immolation? If memory serves me right, some time ago former General Secretary Paul Burke or councillor for the Papine Division Venesha Phillips suggested something akin to a 'truth commission' to facilitate a process of cathartic cleanse. Maybe the PNP's new leadership might want to revisit that idea.

Local government elections

In the meantime, there is the small matter of a local government elections in the offing. If the PNP suffers a total wipeout then Golding might need to begin to watch his back and look over his political shoulders with great regularity. Win or go home! Party politics in Jamaica is now impatient of journeymen and women.

The birds, those reliable Black-Bellied Plovers, Bananaquits, and John Chewits tweet that some, especially in the inner sanctum of the PNP, are politically famished. The birds warble that the one seat defeat in February 2016 still induces nightmares for many in the PNP. And the 49 to 14 trouncing by the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) eight weeks ago still has many doubling up on certain tranquillising medications.

A sure way to silence or at least bring some level of quietude to the warring factions in the PNP is to win the upcoming local government election, or at least achieve a draw. If Golding fails at both I think there will be another leadership challenge before 2023.

Key appointments

Friedrich Schiller, philosopher and historian, famously said: “A merely fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished.”

Golding has several key internal appointments to make/influence in the coming days and weeks. The birds chirp that if he plays the wrong tune on his trumpet it could severely impact his political longevity.

The birds sing that men with “lean and hungry looks” are watching keenly to see who will replace outgoing party Chairman Fitz Jackson, and outgoing General Secretary Julian Robinson.

The birds sing, that several who suffer with “vaulting ambition” are keenly eyeing the posts of Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives and Senate.

The birds shriek that there are those with a Methuselah mindset who believe they have paid their dues and should be automatically rewarded. And then there are those who declare that new wines are needed in newer and new wineskins.

Are these harbingers of another internal cold war in the PNP? Time will tell.

Obstructionists

There are some among us who remain silent when members of the security forces are killed. Mum's the word when private citizens are shot down in cold blood, women are brutally assaulted, children are kidnapped, and/or when other heinous crimes are committed against innocent law-abiding Jamaicans by marauding criminals.

Some of these same lobbyists oppose the implementation of a national identification system (NIDS) irrespective of the fact that its non-implementation is severely hurting many of our most vulnerable.

I discussed this travesty in a previous article.

Some evidently want us to debate and discuss, hold more forums and sensitisations to last another 40 years before NIDS is implemented. This is madness!

Their objective is to see Jamaica trapped in a sort of economic and social Stone Age.

Well-thinking Jamaicans must democratically resist this terrible fixation with the past and obsession with that which hinders Jamaica from taking her true place among the advanced countries of the globe. Ignorance does not fetch a premium in an age where information and access to it is hard currency.

Already purveyors of monumental ignorance are busy telling folks in various media that they should walk wide of any COVID-19 vaccine because no effective vaccine can be developed in under two years. This bit of good news, 'Pfizer vaccine trial success signals breakthrough in pandemic battle', ( Reuters, November 10, 2020) doubtless would have severely upset many of those who thrive on superstitions, religious claptrap, pseudo-scientific theories, and mediocrity.

I respect the right to freedom of expression. Note, I am not arguing that anyone's right should be curtailed providing it is exercised within the scope of the law.

Still, I am amazed at the allergy to scientific facts that possess many anti-victim lobbyists, human rights activists, and religious fanatics who seem to forgo the use of reason at every step of their delivery.

Jamaicans cannot spend another 58 years scratching for an existence. We are a rich country, full of poor people.

Evil personified

He was shot dead at a dance. He disarmed a gunman and the gunman was shot.

“The angry patrons shot the policeman and bashed his head in, a police source told, Observer Online.” (November 8, 2020)

Other media reports say patrons assisted with the transportation of the gunman to hospital, while some blocked the path of those who attempted to help the policeman to medical help.

The brutal killing of police Constable Kirkland Plummer by gunmen at an illegal party in Harwood near Sanguinetti in Clarendon last week will be another nine-day wonder for some.

Crime is a clear and present danger to the survival of the Jamaican state. Do we need another 1,000 murders like this or even more heinous to realise that our society is being ripped to shreds at the very core? We have become well adjusted to foul deeds. This is most dangerous.

Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.


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