Is the PNP going forward in reverse?
Point / Counter PointFriday, April 09, 2021
with Lloyd B Smith
The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) appears to be approaching a comatose state after being severely injured in the September 3, 2020 General Election by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which saw the Dr Peter Phillips-led party being walloped by the JLP 49 to 14 seats — which has given JLP l and Prime Minister Andrew Holness an overbearing presence in the House of Representatives.
Despite putting on a brave face, and trying his best to remain relevant and visible, Opposition Leader Mark Golding has been hobbled by continued disunity in his party, primarily engineered by supporters of his arch-rival Lisa Hanna, who still see her as the right choice for party president. These malcontents have been waging an unceasing war on social media platforms in a scenario akin to an owner of an expensive vase using a hammer to swat a fly that has pitched on it.
One of the major bugbears facing Golding is that he has had to live with a shadow Cabinet that was not of his choosing, as is the custom. In what now seems to have been a deliberate “last lick”, then Party President Dr Peter Phillips selected what was deemed to be an “interim” shadow Cabinet. It was therefore felt that, on the ascension of his successor, the senators would have resigned en bloc, again as is the norm. However, as part of the cobweb of conspiracy plaguing the PNP, the senators have held on to their respective appointments. And were it not for that soap opera-type drama involving Norman Horne, who took onto himself a kind of Scarlet Pimpernel approach (now you see me, now you don't), and then ultimately could not take up the post because of an alleged issue of dual citizenship, the current Opposition leader would have ended up not having any obvious ally in the Upper House. Golding's subsequent selection of his perceived 'partner in crime' Peter Bunting, who was then made Leader of Opposition Business and shadow minister on national security, has further exacerbated the ongoing feud (Risers versus the so-called “Purists”) who have remained convinced that the party has been hijacked and is being taken in a path not in line with the original principles and objectives of Norman Manley.
In the meantime, it is safe to say that the shadow Cabinet, for the most part, lacks substance and it is also painfully obvious that there has been no symbiotic relationship, further reinforcing in the mind of John Public that the “PNP nah go no way”.
What really is the role of a shadow Cabinet? According to Wikipedia, it is a feature of the Westminster system of government which sees that body consisting of a senior group of Opposition spokespeople who, under the leadership of the leader of Opposition, form an alternative Cabinet to that of the Government, and whose members shadow or mirror the positions of each individual member of the Cabinet. “It is the shadow Cabinet's responsibility to scrutinise the policies and actions of the Government, as well as to offer alternative policies.”
Is this being done to any fair extent? Methinks not!
Against this background, are well-thinking citizens to assume that, because of the September 3, 2020 crushing defeat, the PNP has decided to lie down and play dead? Meanwhile, those who are opposed to the Golding leadership, have they adopted a Samson-like stance, prepared to go down with the crumbling edifice of a once noble and great party?
Historically, the PNP has been known to handle debilitating defeats with courage, determination, and a unity of purpose. In 1980, the JLP won 51 of 60 seats, but the Michael Manley-led party picked itself up and dusted off any defeatist tendencies and became a vibrant, focused Opposition taking on the Edward Seaga-led JLP. Indeed, by 1983, a politically savvy Seaga must have sensed that the party under his leadership was losing much ground in such short a space of time and opted to call a snap election on an old voters' list that the PNP refused to accept. The result was a one-party Parliament as the PNP boycotted the polls. But that did not deter Comrades from connecting with the Jamaican electorate, using various fora outside of Gordon House to mobilise and energise the masses. The end result that, in the 1989 General Election, the PNP won 45 of the 60 seats and would remain in power for 18 and a half years.
Fast-forward to 2021, with its 14 seats (in 1980 it had 15 seats), and the PNP once again can rise to the occasion if it so wishes, but can a similar scenario be played out this time with the current cast of players?
In the previous cast, with an Edward Seaga at the helm, who was subject to much demonisation by the PNP, things were different. The present scenario has “Brogad” (Andrew Holness), whose popularity with the masses enabled the JLP to send the PNP into the political wilderness with much ease.
At present, speculation is rife that opposing forces in the PNP are again organising themselves to challenge the leadership of Mark Golding. Lisa Hanna appears to be the front-runner, but party sources say that Phillip Paulwell, who skillfully repositioned himself as party chairman, and who purportedly has that “lean and hungry look” may well be harnessing his own army to storm the Old Hope Road citadel.
On the other hand, supporters of Lisa Hanna have commandeered the social media platforms spewing a great deal of vitriol and poisonous darts aimed at the RUM (Rise United Movement), insisting that Comrade Mark is too soft and cannot beat Holness in any general election.
To some extent, however, they are doing much harm to the image of their darling Comrade Lisa, as in the final analysis it would be futile for her to eventually take over the mantle of leadership only to find that the PNP has become damaged goods and may well be in an irreparable state.
Mark Golding, so far, has publicly risen above the fray and has been trying to lead from in front, but it would appear that every time he puts the sputtering PNP engine in drive, his detractors persist in putting it in reverse!
Lloyd B Smith has been involved full-time in Jamaican media for the past 44 years. He has also served as a Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. He hails from western Jamaica, where he is popularly known as the Governor. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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