Unite or be doomed!
Former PNP leaders charge Comrades to mend fences if they hope to form the next Gov'tMonday, October 18, 2021
BY ALPHEA SUMNER
In a desperate cry for unity, former leaders of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) P J Patterson and Dr Peter Phillips yesterday issued a strong charge to the beleaguered political organisation to mend its internal fractures or face doom at the polls.
Addressing the party's first-ever virtual public session at its 83rd annual conference, Patterson, the country's longest-serving prime minister, said the party was doomed to a fate of defeat and self-destruction if it continues to indulge in hostilities and vulgar abuse by members.
“Comrades who do this are enemies of progress and mean the party no good. Some of the atrocious postings should be deplored and cease even if they were to be uttered against our opponents, the JLP [Jamaica Labour Party],” said Patterson, his face a mask of concern.
The conference was streamed live from the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) to a mainly virtual audience across social and traditional media platforms in deference to the COVID-19 safety measures.
Dr Phillips, the immediate past president of the PNP, said that as Jamaica confronts the novel coronavirus pandemic the country needed a strong PNP.
“Not a PNP eager for power, but a PNP true to its history as a progressive party... Jamaica needs an authentic PNP, where internal democracy is alive, where its integrity is unassailable. It needs a PNP that respects its leaders and protects the rights of every member,” he said.
The former leaders' call comes weeks after the party's executive committee expelled activist Karen Cross, who was brought before the party's disciplinary committee after she made several blistering accusations against the PNP leadership, including President Mark Golding and General Secretary Dayton Campbell, and featured in a protest outside the gates of the PNP's headquarters demanding their resignation.
This is the most recent of rifts in the party, on top of old wounds which remain from the leadership challenge by former Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting against Dr Phillips.
Patterson, whose speech seemed pre-recorded, asserted: “A two-engine plane cannot take off from the runway properly with a full load aboard when only one engine is working and the other is deliberately shut down,” stressing that current leader Mark Golding had his full support and has a right to the support of all Comrades.
He said the time was ripe for the PNP to begin to make its move to take back leadership of the country, arguing: “The ground is fertile, we have more supporters out there than we know, but there is work to be done, in our hills and villages, in the towns and cities. Electoral history establishes that no party can beat the PNP once we are united from top to bottom. Only a divided party can beat itself. The time for action is now, not one day too soon,” the former leader said.
He pointed to his 14-year leadership of the party, not counting the years as chairman, as one grounded in unity, where the issues were resolved out of the limelight.
“I am not of the political school of those who run to lose and, when they do, give some explanation. I stand by my record. I am willing to call school about it if it will help us to know how it was done, quietly and constantly. Nowadays the cartoonists are having a field day at our expense by always showing our house on fire. Do we want to remain a house divided by itself which cannot stand? Or do we regain our sanity to unite as one movement?” he asked.
Patterson stressed that it was time to cease hostilities and renew a sense of trust and instil hope in Jamaicans, urging, “Skipper Mark Golding, party leader, the time has come for you to declare all hands aboard.”
Immediate past president of the PNP Dr Phillips also urged the party to prepare itself to take back the reins of Government by reinforcing the principles and foundations of the organisation.
“Comrades and members of the party should always be able to trust the integrity of the internal democratic structures and processes within the party, and to believe that those structures will never be manipulated, whether by money or by force,” he told the conference, pointing out, as Patterson did, that “a house divided against itself will not stand”.
During the two-day conference Golding was returned uncontested as president, along with Ian Hayles, Eugene Kelley, Richard Azan, and Norman Scott as vice-presidents.