Another PNP contest expected at month-end meeting of NECThursday, November 19, 2020
BY KIMONE FRANCIS
STILL struggling to provide a united front to the Jamaican electorate, the People's National Party, which just concluded a decisive leadership race, is set to face more internal elections as indications are that there will be contests for the posts of chairman and general secretary when the National Executive Council (NEC) meets at month-end.
The vacancies have arisen with the pending resignations of General Secretary Julian Robinson and Chairman Fitz Jackson, following the party's crushing defeat in the September 3 General Election that caused former leader Dr Peter Phillips to resign.
However, two party stalwarts — former General Secretary Paul Burke and former Chairman Robert Pickersgill — are cautioning against whim-and-fancy selections, noting that specific characteristics and skills are needed for the posts.
Already, several Comrades have signalled their intention to occupy the post of chairman, including Vice-President Phillip Paulwell, Dr Angela Brown Burke and Anthony Hylton.
Hylton was soundly defeated by Jackson 79 to 180 during a meeting of the NEC — the second-highest decision-making body outside of the annual conference — in St Mary in September 2017.
Dr Dayton Campbell, the former Member of Parliament (MP) for St Ann North Western, and Raymond Pryce, the former MP for St Elizabeth North Eastern, are expected to go head-to-head in their quest to replace Robinson, with PNP standard-bearer for St Elizabeth North Eastern and Deputy General Secretary Basil Waite on the periphery eyeing the post.
The Jamaica Observer has learnt that Pryce has the backing of defeated presidential candidate Lisa Hanna.
From all indications, newly elected President Mark Golding is eager to fill both posts with backers Brown Burke, who was his campaign director in the just-concluded leadership election, and Dr Campbell, who was his campaign manager.
Yesterday, Burke told the Observer that the broader issue at hand is that the political party does not have a proper job description for the role of general secretary.
At the same time, he mentioned that it was important to select a general secretary who has the full trust of the president.
“The proper thing that the party needs to do is to define the scope of work for a general secretary in this period,” he said.
According to Burke, prior to tendering his resignation after the party's shock defeat at the polls in 2016, he had moved a motion at the NEC for this to happen, as well as an annual evaluation of the general secretary, but it was “never really accepted”.
“There are certain political characteristics you want, of course, but you want somebody who will put in the time, prepare to do the work, and has the confidence of the party president. It goes without saying. It's an unwritten rule, because the general secretary protects a party president and can honestly and straightforwardly disagree in a one to one,” he told the Observer.
“You need that kind of relationship; you need that kind of trust, and particularly in a low-trust environment as we are in the People's National Party. The trust factor is a major component,” he added.
In a recent radio interview, Golding praised Campbell as one who has a “tremendous” capacity for work.
“He's a hard worker. He's very bright, savvy and good with numbers. He's a good organiser. He entered the politics quite young and some of the brashness of youth may have manifested at times, but since he and I have been working closely, I've been mentoring him and I've seen significant maturity emerging... So I'm hoping that the NEC will respect that choice and elect him as the general secretary,” Golding said.
Meanwhile, Pickersgill, who held the post for more than two decades, earning him the title of chairman for life, was very candid about the qualities the next chairman must possess.
“In terms of where the party has found itself right now, the next chairman must be humble, as he or she will need to play a significant role in unifying the party. That would be the first duty or obligation of the office of chairman. The chairman has to be a good listener and a person who demonstrates patience,” he told the Observer.
The NEC is expected to meet on November 29.