Dr Peter Phillips on Sunday charged thousands of People's National Party (PNP) supporters to vote in the next elections, saying they have a date with destiny to rescue the country because Jamaicans are growing "increasingly doubtful about the future".
In easily the most cerebral address at the public session of the PNP's 85th Annual Conference Dr Phillips, who is now retired after serving as PNP president and Opposition leader from 2017 to 2020, told Comrades that the party needed to "set out a new mission for the salvation of our country and the renewal of our democracy".
"The future of our country demands a re-energised political process. It demands a new kind of political engagement like we've never seen before," Phillips said to loud and sustained cheers and applause inside the packed National Arena in St Andrew.
"The party has to set out a vision of a revived nationhood. It has to set out a vision of social transformation and we have to energise the people in the same way that Norman Manley's generation did it — going from door to door, town to town," he said in reference to the founders of the party who chose Manley as the PNP's first president in 1938.
"I want to talk to you about that deeper encounter with destiny that is involved in these elections that are coming. The next elections are not just about changing one set of ministers for another set of ministers. It's not about replacing one set of office holders in all the agencies with another set of office holders," Phillips said.
"The next elections are about rescuing the country. The next elections are about improving the direction of our future as a country, and as a people. If truth be told, despite all the gains that have been made in Jamaica since 1938, and despite all that has been achieved since Independence, the people of the country are increasingly doubtful about the future," Phillips said.
Pointing to the latest employment data released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin), Phillips said, while he had no quarrel with the numbers being reported, the country cannot be satisfied with the metrics used to measure employment.
"We can't be satisfied with calling somebody who a wipe window at stop sign and traffic light an employed person. We can't call people who work one hour a week, according to what Statin numbers say, an employed person. Not to mention that even though they say they have the highest number of employed people, you have more than a half a million Jamaicans who not even looking for work. Many of them drawn into the world of criminality and violence," he argued.
In relation to education Phillips said, "According to this Government's own numbers, more than 50 per cent of the students leaving primary school and going to high school can't read and write. We can't go on this way."
Turning his attention to squatter communities, Phillips said that they are not populated by lazy people, but rather by some of the hardest working people in the world.
"The squatter communities represent one of the most obscene and degrading elements of the inheritance of plantation slavery and the plantation economy. It represents generations of all those formerly enslaved people who were turned out from the plantation. Time come now for us to solve that problem that has been bedevilling us for too long," he said, eliciting more loud cheers.
He said that because of all these conditions people are not only doubtful about the future, they're "beginning to doubt the democratic system that we have".
"Sixty per cent of the voters never even bother to turnout in the last elections; and poll after poll tell us that 50 per cent and more don't have any trust in the political system and leadership in the country. We can't go on like this."
He said the PNP needs to rescue the country, including supporters of the governing Jamaica Labour Party "for a better Jamaica with a different future".
"There is no place in this for political gimmickry. It is not enough, as I said, to beat the other party, we have to mobilise a nation. I know you can do it, and I know the People's National Party can do it. Only the People's National Party has the vision. Only the People's National Party has the tradition of activism to do it. Only the People's National Party has the record of doing it," Phillips told the cheering Comrades.
"So I say to this conference, a date with destiny awaits you. The country's future is in your hands. So let the trumpet sound and let us all, under the leadership of the party leader, answer that call. Let us, from this arena, light the torch of national revival and renewal. Let us stand once more for the cause of our own native land, Jamaica, land we love."