Comrades on edge
Lisa, Lambert, Morais out of Golding's new shadow cabinet
THE Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) seems headed for a fresh round of internal wrangling after its president, Mark Golding, signalled late last week that he was about to shuffle the party’s shadow cabinet.
On Saturday Golding revealed a new 26-member shadow cabinet without three of the PNP’s more vocal spokespersons — Lisa Hanna, who shadowed the foreign affairs and foreign trade portfolio; Dr Morais Guy, who spoke on health and wellness; and Senator Lambert Brown, who spoke on the public service.
They were replaced by Angela Brown Burke, who was shifted from labour and social security to foreign and regional affairs; and newcomer Dr Alfred Dawes, who takes on health and wellness. Julian Robinson will now be the party’s spokesman on public service while continuing to shadow the finance minister.
In the meantime, Senator Donna Scott Mottley was stripped of the information section of her portfolio, leaving her to speak only on justice, while fellow senator, Sophia Frazer Binns, is now being asked to shadow environment and ecological heritage instead of her former portfolio of land, environment, and climate change.
Former Cabinet minister and Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives Phillip Paulwell had his shadow portfolio adjusted from energy and mining to energy and climate change, while the outspoken Mikael Phillips saw his portfolio shifted from transport and works to transport and mining.
Dawes joins other newcomers in the shadow cabinet, including Wavel Hinds, who takes on labour and sports; Nekeisha Burchell, who will shadow information and public communication; and Dr Deborah Hickling, who will speak on culture and creative industries.
Efforts to get a comment from Golding on Saturday were unsuccessful, but in a response to the Jamaica Observer via WhatsApp he underscored that the shadow cabinet has 10 women.
In a mid-afternoon release, Burchell said the reshuffle of the shadow cabinet by Golding was aimed at showcasing the diverse talent and extensive skill sets present within the PNP.
“The new shadow cabinet combines new faces to front line politics alongside seasoned politicians — all ready to offer solutions to Jamaica’s long-standing challenges. Each shadow minister will be supported by a team, including deputies to be named at a later date, and their junior shadow cabinet counterparts.
“Shadow cabinet positions provide an opportunity for team members to contribute and gain exposure, without burdening taxpayers. The Opposition leader thanks those who served in the previous shadow cabinet and will not be offering themselves in the next election,” the release added.
But even as the leadership of the party sought to portray the changes to the shadow cabinet as part of its normal business, messages shared in PNP WhatsApp groups suggested that the party could be headed for another major fallout.
“Good morning Comrades, I see our party leader has introduced a new method of governance…reshuffle done via e-mail, and with limited MPs in Parliament cutoff of the most senior and vocal,” said one Comrade.
“A cabinet reshuffle is being done as we speak via WhatsApp messages, and Guy and Lisa are out because they are not running back. I was unaware that running was a criterion for being in the shadow cabinet,” added the Comrade.
That PNP supporter argued that it was political suicide to move Guy and Hanna out of the shadow cabinet weeks before the party is scheduled to contest a local government election.
“The implications are so obvious. The question is, where is the political sense?” added the Comrade.
With messages flowing quick and fast, several PNP members warned that the party could return to the not-too-distant past when it was split into factions.
“The absolute destruction of any semblance of unity within the party going into a local government election,” declared another Comrade in the chats.
“The writing on the wall is getting bolder. Wait for the implosion,” added another PNP supporter.
The PNP has been facing internal turmoil since 2019 when Peter Bunting challenged then president Dr Peter Phillips for the leadership of the party.’
While Phillips, under his campaign banner of ‘One PNP’, beat back the challenge of Bunting and his ‘Rise United’ team, the rifts in the party failed to heal in time for the 2020 General Election where the party was given a political backsiding by the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party.
Days after that defeat, Phillips walked away from the PNP’s top job, paving the way for a run-off between Golding and Hanna, which led to fresh, bitter infighting in the party.
Golding defeated Hanna and has since tried to unify the party while mending fences, despite the deep hurt caused by the two internal elections.
But, with this latest move, Comrades are afraid that the lingering wounds are about to break out into really massive sores.