'What nuh dead nuh call it duppy'
All not lost with PNP discord, resignationsSunday, July 25, 2021
The resignations of three People's National Party (PNP) vice-presidents — Damion Crawford, Wykeham McNeill, Mikael Phillips — party Chairman Phillip Paulwell; and Krystal Tomlinson, president of the youth organisation, PNPYO, last Friday, tell us clearly, and forcefully, that the PNP is no longer in a hole. It is in a crater created by a bomb, planted by its own members.
Just over six months ago I forecast that, even with a new president, Norman Manley's party would continue in its topsy-turvy state until it has won an election. I repeated my prediction in this space, three Sundays ago. I see no convincing evidence that would cause me to abandon my political projection.
Despite the huge fissures in the 83-year-old PNP I do not share the view of some pundits that it is time for a funeral. Several weeks ago I said, among other things, in this space: “Those who are in a rush to write its political obituary would do well to remember this local adage: 'What nuh dead nuh call it duppy'.” I have not recoiled from that position.
Veteran PNP politician K D Knight opined in a media interview that the recent resignations of five top executives could provide a silver lining for his party. I think Knight is on to something.
As I see it, the PNP is now two factions: OnePNP versus RiseUnited. There is a seeming irreconcilability between the two.
Now that the rickety boat which gave them refuge is rapidly taking in water — certainly faster than in the last five years — they will have to join in chucking out, not just water, but debris. I suspect that some amount of dead weight will have to be tossed overboard.
Self-preservation will force them to act, whether they are motivated by unenlightened and personal political aggrandisement, the fleeting theory of democratic socialism as espoused by Norman and Michael Manley, or other considerations.
More than a dry spell
Opposition parties here in Jamaica, and globally, are never a happy bunch. The divisions in the PNP are part and parcel of how a political party eats away at itself when its raison d'Ítre is nullified, especially by the reality of successive electoral defeats.
Recall that the PNP was defeated in the February 25, 2016 General Election, even though many political pundits predicted a landslide victory for 89 Old Hope Road. Norman Manley's party was thrashed in the local government election held in November 2016. The PNP has also been thoroughly whipped in three consequential by-elections since they were booted from Jamaica House in 2016.
The PNP would doubtless like to forget, in particular, the political earthquake of April 4, 2019 which resulted in immense foundational damage to its creaking structures. Recall that in the run-up to the by-election in Portland Eastern, Damion Crawford was the most popular politician in the PNP, according to scientific polls. That reality, plus the fact that the PNP had not lost the Portland Eastern seat in 30 years, caused many pundits to conclude that it was nigh impossible for a humble political neophyte, Ann-Marie Vaz, to create history. She did. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and Vaz overturned the over 2,200 margin of victory achieved by the PNP in the February 25, 2016 General Election. Despite the fact that Crawford gained 1,000 more votes than Dr Lynvale Bloomfield did in the 2016 General Election, it was not enough to overcome the just over 3,000 additional votes, or 50 per cent increase, for the JLP's Ann-Marie Vaz.
PNP 'invincibility' was shattered. The 'Jamaica is PNP country' philosophy was dealt a death-dealing blow. That political laceration was made worse on September 3, 2020, when another near-mortal body blow was lodged to the political solar plexus of the PNP. The JLP's 49-14 pulverizing sent the then PNP president and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips — to date the only leader of one of our two major political parties not to ascend to the coveted position of prime minister — into retirement.
Political parties are different from pressure groups, civil society entities, and other associations. They exist to secure and retain State power. The fact that the PNP has not tasted of the fruit of political victory in just over five years is two-thirds of the explanation for the turmoil within its ranks. As a consequence of the PNP's political famine, the worst characteristics of political competition have surfaced.
Political cut-throats, mercenaries, and assassins are naturally aplenty in a situation in which everyone has to watch his/her back. Unsurprisingly, wannabes, has-beens, and maybes all fancy themselves to lead in circumstances characterised by double-dealing.
There are some folks in the PNP who are totally drunk on the fuel of political narcissism. They will likely stop at nothing to satisfy their morbid political obsessions. The glue of ideology has long lost its adhesion. And a palsy-walsy media which did the bidding of 89 Old Hope Road for several decades is today a toothless tiger. Those factors constitute the remaining one-third of the explanation for the interminable drift in the PNP.
I rather doubt the Andrew Holness-led Administration will commit political suicide. Holness is determined to go where no other JLP leader has gone before. Therefore, if the PNP is to win a consequential election its members will have to do back-breaking work in the highways and byways of Jamaica.
The templates for political comebacks are plentiful. When Michael Manley was booted from office in a landslide defeat at the hands of Edward Seaga in 1980, he did not go off into political seclusion or throw himself on the scrap heap of irrelevance. Manley repackaged himself and, most importantly, he remodelled the PNP. He distanced himself from the idiocy of democratic socialism, abandoned the Kariba suit, and openly embraced market capitalist orientations.
In addition to a National Executive Council meeting of the PNP that was held at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona in the early 1990s, Manley publicly rejected democratic socialism in Washington, DC, after he got a third bite of Jamaica's choicest political cherry in 1989.
“The Michael Manley who visited the United States in 1990 had cast aside his Che Guevara bush jacket in favour of a suit. The free market had replaced his party's 'ten steps to socialism'. President Bush was happy to bless a sinner who had apparently repented, and he went out of his way to praise the 'first-class job' that Manley was doing as prime minister of Jamaica. It takes style and gall to change sides successfully, and Mr Manley had plenty of both. He turned on a reporter, who seemed puzzled that the old leftie had become a free marketer, and said: 'Is your outlook on everything the same as it was 10 years ago?' “ ( The Economist, March 1997)
Change is required in politics if one is to survive and thrive. Andrew Holness learned how to adapt in record time, maybe faster than any other prime minister before him. Many might not remember, but there was a time when Holness was criticised for sounding too much like a “school principal” and too little like a politician who was “on mission to wrestle power away from the incumbent”.
Holness was pilloried for lacking political adroitness by some in the JLP who openly pronounced that his political career hung on a frail string. Holness's political stocks were relegated nearly to junk bond status after the December 29, 2011 General Election.
The Andrew Holness-led JLP was given a political flogging by Portia Simpson Miller. But the plucky Holness did not throw in his marbles, fold his arms, and then make a run for political never-never land. He went back to the drawing board and took to the highways and byways. If memory serves me right, he criss-crossed our 14 parishes on three occasions. Holness did not go empty-handed. Like Tony Blair, former leader of the British Labour Party, Holness and his team spent months prior to hitting the political pavement devising and fine-tuning practical policies, until they could be explained in distinct bullet points.
A prerequisite to a great political prize is hard work.
Stop the philosophising
Victory at the ballot box will not fall into the PNP's empty sack by trumpeting wishes or dining on social policies enacted by former Prime Minister Michael Manley in the 1970s. Approaching nine months into his presidency, I am yet to see a clear direction; credible set of policies, programmes; or, indeed, a credible platform from Norman Manley's party. Instead, I am seeing more of 'the same ole, same ole', which, among other things, caused 89 Old Hope Road to suffer a penetrating political pounding in our 18th parliamentary election held on September 3, 2020.
Albert Einstein famously said, “ If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”
The PNP needs to throw, no, 'dash-weh', as we say in local parlance, its fondness, more correctly, heavy reliance on philosophising. Folks tune out quickly when they figure you are trying to bamboozle them with archaic speak which does not determine the amount of 'dough' in their pockets' or on their dinner tables.
On the point of political strategy, the reliable Black-Bellied Plovers, John Chewits, and Bananaquits warble that there is no leadership challenge on the cards for the upcoming PNP annual conference, as some political pundits have mouthed.
The birds shriek that a challenge to PNP President Mark Golding will come if he loses or fails to achieve at least a decent draw in the upcoming parish council elections.
The birds chirp that Golding has climbed down from his high horse since the resignations of the PNP's five top executives last week. They tweet, among other things, that the resignations were designed to remind Golding that there is Superman, and there is also kryptonite.
My fine-feathered friends shriek that, in the coming days, Golding's decision curve will begin to overtly reflect far less directing from one who many in the inner sanctum of the PNP be regarded as a political ventriloquist.
The birds sing that those who resigned will be given responsibilities commensurate to the ones they abandoned as a peace offering. The PNP will hit the road soon thereafter, if COVID-19 allows.
Mark of beast, really?!
Last Wednesday, I was in a business place and I overheard a spirited conversation in which a lady was explaining to another why she had opted not to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It is the mark of the beast,” she submitted. “Go and read, Revelation 13:16-17,” she recommended.
I was tempted to intervene and point out that the particular scripture spoke about receiving a mark in the “right hand or forehead”, but I thought the better of that inclination. Instead, I did my bidding and quickly exited the business establishment.
But I had a niggling to remind myself of what Revelation 13:16-17 actually said. So I did:
“16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
“17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
When I received the COVID-19 vaccine an injection needle was applied to my upper arm. I don't recollect seeing anyone getting the injection needle applied to their right or left hand, or in their forehead.
I admit that I am no Bible scholar, but based on what the mentioned scriptures say, it is clear to me that the COVID-19 vaccine injection fails to meet the “mark of the beast” description. Individuals who are experiencing a relocation of their forehead, right or left hand, to their upper arms, need to get help, and fast.
Ignorance is not bliss.
The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is soon to land on our shores. It might be here already. Scientific evidence shows that the unvaccinated are like huge magnets to what some virologists say is the more transmissible Delta variant.
Consider this: “Jamaica has received 315,680 doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far, with 119,424 people now fully vaccinated, and 58,400 having received their first dose. However, over 93 per cent of the population remains unvaccinated. ( Jamaica Observer, July 21, 2021)
We are in a precarious state in this country.
Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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