Editorial

But will the PNP combatants listen to Mr A J Nicholson?

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

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Political campaigns in Jamaica, whether for internal party positions or for municipal or general elections, are no Sunday evening stroll and definitely not for the faint of heart.

Even where the violence and physical confrontations have abated, verbal abuse appears to have intensified, aided and abetted no doubt by the easy access to social media and people's heightened sense of freedom to say whatever they want.

The current contest for the leadership of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), pitting current President Dr Peter Phillips against would-be president, Mr Peter Bunting, is very much in the ilk of other recent political races in tone.

Indeed, the internal leadership battles in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) pre-2007 were so bitter and prolonged that the party lost four consecutive general elections, a first in Jamaican political history, between 1989 and 2007. Perhaps it is the turn of the PNP now.

The slugfest in the PNP appears to be mirroring that of the JLP, starting in 2006 when Dr Phillips, Dr Omar Davies and Dr Karl Blythe faced Mrs Portia Simpson Miller, the eventual victor. Two years later Dr Phillips challenged her and got a second whipping.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the pain and hurt from those contests have not healed completely, continue to fester and now threaten to explode with the challenge thrown out by Mr Bunting to Dr Phillips.

As the leadership race plays out loudly on social media, some Comrades have been resorting to the use of hurtful and deeply disrespectful language to describe their opponents, hurling terms such as “mongrel dog” at each other.

The discourse, if it can be so called, has coarsened to the extent that descriptions of the party leader's girth and personality have prevailed over his qualification for leadership or performance as a public servant of long-standing.

The attempt by Officer Emeritus of the PNP, Mr Arnold J Nicholson Sunday night to call a halt to the worsening verbal onslaughts being traded among combatants, while not surprising, could be a mere exercise in whistling in the wind.

Mr Nicholson, of course, is a stalwart with a long record of service to the PNP and as officer emeritus, is eminently placed to act as referee. But will the supporters of both sides listen to him?

“…this leadership contest that is now being played out within the People's National Party has to be conducted in a manner to make for some game-changing outcomes. The moment has to be seized,” Mr Nicholson said in a press statement carried in yesterday's edition of the Jamaica Observer.

“There is therefore the requirement, first and foremost, for a sense of decorum — an upful tone — to be injected at once into the exercise,” the former justice minister and attorney general pleaded.

Nicholson said that for sometime campaigning for leadership positions had sunken too much into personal attacks and he urged both sides, “preferably in unison and as a matter of urgency”, to publicly issue “their wish, demand, directive that representations made on their behalf must be faithful to that required sense of decorum and upfulness”.

We'll see what becomes of his well wishing.


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