PNP conflict intensifies
THE internal conflict rocking the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) intensified Monday when Councillor Venesha Phillips scolded embattled parliamentarian Lisa Hanna on social media, telling the MP that she squandered an opportunity to heal the wounds in her constituency where some comrades are campaigning to have her replaced.
Phillips, who represents the August Town Division in the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, was responding to Hanna’s Instagram post Monday in which she told her critics that she was returned unopposed as chairman of the party’s St Ann South Eastern constituency organisation.
“Tell RJR and the other media argument done,” Hanna posted. “Thousands came out to support me yesterday and I want to thank them… I have been returned as chairman unopposed with my executive. The sprinkling of people who dressed in black down in the market… Oh well… #argumentdone #southeaststannconference #lisahannamp.”
Hanna’s reference was to a demonstration staged by PNP supporters Sunday as her constituency conference was ongoing in Claremont, St Ann.
The protesters, among them four PNP councillors, wore black “to mourn the death of the constituency”, saying that they are not satisfied with Hanna’s leadership.
The councillors have also accused Hanna of trying to have them replaced. However, they said that that could not be done without due process.
“No member of parliament can determine who runs as councillor in a division. That is determined by the delegates of that
division,” Councillor Lloyd Garrick (Moneague Division) declared.
Lydia Richards, who indicated that she was willing to challenge Hanna as the PNP candidate for the next general election, said that they were not trying to push anyone out. “We are trying to find someone better to manage the constituency. That is all we are doing. If we give you the task and you are not performing, we get rid of you, simple,” Richards said.
Hanna, in her address to the conference, said she feared no one, neither was she afraid of challenges and firmly told her supporters that she would not be leaving the constituency.
But the following day Phillips took Hanna to task in a Facebook post.
“Still laughing… my stomach aching from laughter… Lisa, you had an opportunity at healing and squandered it,” Phillips wrote. “Anyone can challenge, it is all part and parcel of the democratic process, you should not publicly ask the comrade to reconsider smh. Invite the councillors to the table to unite the constituency. #endpoliticalbullying #donshipisalabouritetrait.”
The squabble added to growing controversy in the PNP over harsh criticisms levelled at the party by Hanna and her equally embattled colleague from St Elizabeth North Eastern, Raymond Pryce, during the biennial congress of the PNP Youth Organisation (PNPYO) last Saturday in Ocho Rios.
Both young parliamentarians had lashed the PNP for the way in which it was treating its young MPs.
“Is this People’s National Party the same People’s National Party that said we care for the development of youths?” Pryce asked in his address.
“Why is it we were so capable, so energetic, so relevant, so valuable, so important in December 2011 and all of a sudden we are so optional in 2015?” Pryce said.
“And if you are sitting there behaving like you are 40 years older than you are, then maybe you are reflecting for the People’s National Party the changes that they have been proposing that send a picture to you, as young people, that we have become not a party for the youth, but a party for some special people and the rest of us are to go out on election day with our index fingers to mark an x beside the head and dip our fingers in the ink and then sit down and watch everybody else advance and everybody else benefit. It nah go work,” a very passionate Pryce said.
“A 36-year-old member of parliament is being sabotaged by somebody who is 62 years old, who had always been there in South West St Elizabeth, and when the going was rough and Comrade Hugh Buchanan was walking the hills and valleys of South West St Elizabeth, where was Ewan Stephenson?” Pryce asked.
His reference was to Stephenson’s challenge to wrest the candidacy from Buchanan.
Pryce stated that he did not want members of the party to be nervous that he has become a revolutionary.
“I have not become a revolutionary. I am a revolutionary,” he said and called on the PNPYO leadership to let their voices be heard.
Hanna, who addressed the congress before Pryce, said one of the ways forward is that the party has to protect its young MPs and councillors.
“We have to protect those MPs and those councillors. We have to protect them. We can’t say we are a party of the youth and you are fighting the young MPs and the young councillors,” Hanna said to loud cheers from the audience.
On Monday, Phillip Paulwell, the minister of science, technology, energy, and mining, said that the claims made by Pryce were not true.
“I think it is entirely untrue. There are some issues that a number of our young MPs are faced with and, by and large, I think it is being managed in a responsible way,” Paulwell said.
“This party supports young people. Myself as minister, on all my boards I make sure I have young people represented; men and women [and] we will continue to do that. I work very closely with the YO,” he added.
Buchanan, too, was not in agreement with Pryce’s statements.
“I don’t agree fully with the statements made by MP Pryce. I wasn’t put in after Andrew Holness became prime minister and leader of the Jamaica Labour Party. I was caretaker from 2009 for the constituency of South West St Elizabeth and I had no competition going in, because no one thought Chris Tufton could lose,” he said.
The MP for St Andrew Eastern, Andre Hylton, also did not share Pryce’s views.
“I can’t agree with Pryce’s statement of the PNP using the youths, but I do agree that there are problems. Issues of mentorship, succession planning. PNP can do better to ensure that the younger members of parliament get the kind of guidance they need, especially as first-time MPs,” Hylton said.