PNP VP race gives hope for party democracy a chance

Louis E A

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

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It is good to see regular elections for vice-presidents in the People's National Party PNP these days. Though the party had a history of being associated with the word democracy, at times the democratic process has been put to rest.

I recall in 2006 I had the audacity to run for vice-president of the PNP. I came under fire because I refused to watch the democratic process in the party stand still. There were meetings that I was summoned to under much pressure to step down. I was steadfast in my intent, because I was as good a candidate as the rest, or even better than some. It was also time for new thinking in the party, and that I think I could have offered it at that level.

I read the Jamaica Observer editorial on Monday, July 30, 2018, titled 'As the PNP gets ready', with some amount of nostalgia. And I think that what I did in 2006 was to open up the doors to that very important election for the office of vice-president. Besides wishing the PNP well in its effort to strengthen itself, the editorial provides an interesting and instructive analysis of the candidates and their regions, and speaks of the helpfulness of the scandals associated with the Jamaica Labour Party Government. While scandals are important in terms of publicity, it is important that the PNP goes back to basics with a view to capture its base. It is not the youth that is its base; it is the bloc of PNP voters that was lost over the past decade. It is a mistake for any profound structural changes to take place in the party to attract the youth. There were no structural changes in the party in 1954, 1972 and 1976.

Secondly, the history of the youth movement and the PNP over the past two decades is not a pretty one. There is the transition of the youth organisation of the PNP from a mass-based movement to an elite university/Kingston-led movement. This shift has denied the party that usual popular mass movement. There is no doubt that the youth movement of the party requires deep reconstruction.

I do not know that anyone running for vice-president can win from youth vote; like youth delegates. In all fairness, I think the vice-presidents positions are for responsible and mature leaders of the party; those persons who have made use of the opportunities offered to them by the party and, in turn, respond to the work of the party in a dependable, conscientious, trustworthy and reliable manner.

I agree with the editorial that there is a solid slate of voters out there for Drs Fenton Ferguson and Wykeham McNeill. Mikael Philips is new and questions will be asked, but he is from a very strong and organised PNP Region Five. What I cannot get from these young politicians is their political thinking and their cause. However, it is difficult to write off Phillips.

There was a time when Region Three of the PNP was called the powerful region, but that time has passed. The demographic to St Catherine and Clarendon had swelled that region in the new political powerhouse for the PNP. It is puzzling that Vice-President Noel Arscott from this region has dropped out of the race. There are three candidates from Region Three: Damian Crawford, Angela Brown Burke and Phillip Paulwell. The region cannot support all three candidates. There will be changes in this region and the winner or winners from this region must have solid alliances with other regions to be successful.

Of course, there is money factor that has tainted the democracy. Yes, I have experienced the onslaught of the money factor; it is a trend that must be arrested to give democracy a chance.

If there must be any fundamental structural changes in the PNP it must be to empower all the officers of the party to become active organisers nationally for those who have been lost. Some people do not like to hear this, but in 1976 over 90 per cent (my estimation) of party field organisers were members of the youth organisation. If the PNP wants to win national elections it must recapture its base and rebuild its mass organisation base.


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