The truth will set us free, says Val Wint of turmoil within PNPSunday, July 25, 2021
BY GARFIELD MYERS
SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — In a political career spanning 15 years, Valenton (Val) Wint has thrice contested parliamentary elections on behalf of the People's National Party (PNP), seeking, as he puts it, to represent the “poor, dispossessed and disenfranchised”.
He lost each time. Wint was defeated by the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Audley Shaw in Manchester North Eastern in 2011 and 2016 and by Zavia Mayne (JLP) in St Ann South Western in 2020.
“Politically weary” but “enriched” in knowledge and experience and a self-described “much better person”, Wint formally resigned as the PNP's caretaker and constituency chairman for St Ann South Western in April.
A native of Butup in southern Manchester on the border with St Elizabeth, the 62-year-old Wint said he will now have more time to focus on his real estate and construction business.
He is at pains to point out that his departure — which only became public knowledge earlier this month — had nothing to do with turmoil in the PNP. Divisions within the Opposition party led to the recent dramatic resignations of Phillip Paulwell as party chairman and vice-presidents Damion Crawford, Wykeham McNeill, and Mikael Phillips.
In fact, Wint is content with the leadership of PNP President Mark Golding, whom he believes is best placed to “unite” the PNP and guide it out of troubled waters to being an attractive alternative to the Andrew Holness-led JLP Government.
“I have every confidence in Mark Golding,” declared Wint in a wide-ranging interview while passing through Santa Cruz last week.
He freely admitted that he was taken aback by the resignations since he was under the impression that the differences and bitter rivalries which have haunted the PNP for many years were gradually, if slowly, being put to rest.
However, having given thought to recent events he believes it may turn out to be good for the party and, by extension, the Jamaican people in the long run.
“When I heard of the spate of resignations and I recognised why these people were resigning I was troubled… But then I ask myself, does this mean that there are some among us who are not satisfied with the direction of the party. Are there some, including at the leadership level, who believe that we need a right about-turn? Is it that they are not satisfied with the style of leadership?
“And I say to myself it is best, if that is the case, that they take the action they are now taking, because the truth will eventually set us free…,” said Wint.
He argued that if people were able to freely speak their minds, differences would be easier resolved. However, he insisted that Golding, who gained the favour of the majority of PNP delegates in a presidential contest with Lisa Hanna last November following the resignation of Dr Peter Phillips, should be shown respect and allowed to carry out his mandate.
“Power struggle is a natural thing but I do believe that when you have chosen a captain to steer a vessel, you must give that captain an opportunity to do so,” he said.
Wint pointed to the value of “in-house discussion” rather than the untidy washing of dirty linen in public.
“When we discuss issues in-house there is respect for each other's opinion. If this process had taken place and there was no positive response [and] the leader did not show respect for other members … then I would say the action would have been warranted,” he said.
But according to him, the opposite was true — to such an extent that he had felt the party was approaching “peace and safety”.
He recalls that “a few weeks ago … we (PNP executive members) had a unity session …. We played games together, we had fun and we went away feeling that the differences were coming to an end; We were on the same page, having party harmony. And without warning (the resignations happened)… Nevertheless, it better it happen now than later on”.
According to Wint, the PNP now has time to “settle the differences, and reorganise … because Jamaica needs the PNP and I believe that the party has the sort of quality persons to make good government ministers. And if we follow the core principles of the party, Jamaica would be brought to a point of reducing poverty and moving in the right direction”.
He is hopeful that “it won't be long before the discussion reaches a point where even those who have shown they are not happy and have exercised their right by resigning will be brought back to the fold …”
Such a development, he argued, is important not just for the PNP, but for Jamaica's democracy.
The country needs a “good, united Opposition”, he said. “Even when we have differences of opinion, we must have consensus on the core issues that affect not just the party but Jamaica…” added Wint.
He insisted that while he intends to remain outside of competitive participation in politics, he is available to serve his party.
“I will always — as long as I have breath in my body — continue to give service to the People's National Party. It is a party that I believe in. I believe that the founding fathers of the party set a trend intended to impact the lives of the unfortunate, disenfranchised and bring about a greater level of development for those not able to afford self-improvement by themselves. The PNP is a party that is inclusive despite what many believe [and] I am sure that my offering myself to [serve] in other ways (than competitive politics) will be embraced by the party. I won't feel any less serving from the pavilion …” he said.
Regarding shortcomings in the PNP organisation, which he believes need urgent fixing, Wint pointed to the secretariat which he believes has been clumsy in terms of its communication with party members/organs and also with the Jamaican people.
Wint argued that communication must involve not just telling the public “what you want them to hear,” but listening so that “you know what people want to hear”. “Feedback is essential to communication,” he said.
Wint said his recent resignation as constituency chairman brought home to him more than ever the need to improve internal efficiency at the PNP secretariat. Though he had resigned months earlier, it wasn't until Observer Online published his resignation letter on July 11 that many leading stakeholders within the PNP knew of it.
Further, he was appalled at the offhand response to his letter.
“I sent in my resignation [and] when I eventually heard from the secretariat … the response was 'thank you for your service, wish you all the best'. I wasn't expecting a big party or anything like that. But … at least I was expecting it would have been communicated to other interested parties, stakeholders, and organs of the party and if the secretariat never felt like making much of it at least a 'big thank you' would be coming from other organs of the party. We are human beings … when you serve the least you expect is [proper appreciation]...,” Wint said.
He has plenty of advice for those who may wish to take on political representation. To begin with, said Wint, aspiring politicians need to be sure their motives are pure and that they are willing to do the work in the interest of their constituents.
“It is a tremendous task they are taking on and if they take it serious any at all, it is going to require so much of them. If you are taking it on only with a view to victory on election day, I don't think that's good enough. Take it on because you want to serve. If all you want do is win, don't do it. There is no certainty that you will win and you could be terribly disappointed at the end of the day,” he said.
In his own case, he gained “tremendously” in “personal development” as a result of immersing himself at the “community level” during his 15 years in competitive politics. This was although he lost money because of the inevitable neglect of business initiatives.
A chuckling Wint recalled that at the start of his political “journey” he operated a thriving retail business, operating five supermarkets. “Today, I don't have even one,” he said.
He said he has no regrets despite never having won an election.
“Politics took me to the feet of the people. It took me to places I never knew existed, living conditions I never saw before. I was brought to experience the suffering many people face,” he said.
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