Monday, 14 July 2008

Peter vs Portia - Phillips declares PNP leadership bid

Jamaica Gleaner: Monday July 14, 2008

Dr PETER Phillips last night confirmed he would make a second bid for the presidency of the People's National Party (PNP), telling an enthusiastic crowd he has what it takes to return the party to its socialist roots.

Phillips, member of parliament for East Central St Andrew, will challenge current President Portia Simpson Miller during the PNP's annual conference in September.

"In response to the demands of thousands of Comrades at all levels of the party and the demands of citizens across the length and breadth of Jamaica who have asked that I accept your nomination to lead this process of renewal, my answer is a resounding yes," said Phillips to deafening applause at the Harbour View Primary School in St Andrew.

Simpson Miller defeated Phillips by just over 200 votes to win the presidency in a bitter presidential election on February 25, 2006.

In a stirring speech, Phillips criticised the government of Prime Minister Bruce Golding, saying it had failed to deliver on election promises to reduce crime and create more jobs. But he also admonished the PNP for abandoning the grass-roots principles of founding father Norman Manley, and his son Michael, the country's populist prime minister from 1972-1980.
He said the PNP, now more than ever, needed an inspirational leader. "We need a PNP which is united once again, we need a People's National Party that recognises the value of the grass-roots workers and organisers," said an animated Phillips. "Time is too short and the crisis is too great for us to fool around any longer with the old politics of division and backbiting."

There had been speculation for months now that Phillips - who served in three ministerial posts under P.J. Patterson and Simpson Miller - would declare a challenge. A full house turned out in the East Rural St Andrew constituency to hear his announcement. MP for South East St Andrew Maxine Henry-Wilson, South Central St Catherine MP Sharon Hay-Webster, South St Catherine MP Fitz Jackson and long-time PNP organiser Kenneth 'Skeng Don' Black were among those who backed Phillips' candidacy.

Uncharted waters
Last night, PNP General Secretary Peter Bunting said this was "uncharted waters" for the PNP as a sitting president had never been challenged. But he said the party welcomed the continuation of democracy.

Bunting also said the party's secretariat would ensure that the integrity of the organisation was maintained. He also said Phillips' announce-ment ahead of the August 4 deadline would allow for adequate planning for the party's annual conference in September.

Phillips' career
Political economist
Born in Kingston, December 28, 1949
Lecturer, University of the West Indies, 1982-1989
Senator and minister without portfolio, OPM, 1989-1994
PNP general secretary, 1991-1994
MP, East Central St Andrew since April 1994
Minister of Health, 1995-1998
PNP VP since Sept 1999
Minister of Transport and Works, Jan 1998-Oct 2001
Minister of National Security, Nov 1, 2001-Sept 2007

Thursday, 10 April 2008

PNP needs rebirth

PNP needs rebirth - C o o k e - But founding member hails party for social reformpublished:
Thursday April 10, 2008
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

Challenging officials of the People's National Party (PNP), former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke says the party desperately needs a renaissance to attract youths to the movement.
On the eve of the party's 70th anniversary, Sir Howard, the only surviving founding member, who was honoured by Region Six members on Tuesday, lauded the party for its contribution to Jamaica's development.

"It is a fact that the social changes and the social revolution in this country have been led and forced upon the people by the PNP," Sir Howard noted.

His inspiration
He noted that it was imperative for the party to look at a new paradigm, interrelated with successful methods used as far back as the 1930s, when he received his inspiration from National Hero Norman Washington Manley.

As he spoke to the intimate group of members representing second-, third- and fourth-generation Comrades, the founding father said his spirits were lifted by the occasion. "What a wonderful experience this is," he stated, while urging the party to do more to honour its stalwarts. The group, led by Region Six Chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill, Senator Noel Sloley and former Ambassador Frank Pringle, praised Sir Howard for his contribution to the reformation of free education. "Seventy years as a member is quite an achievement and a feat. People like you made the foundation that makes us proud to be members of the PNP," Sloley proudly stated.

Always on the move
Sir Howard's wife of 69 years, Lady Cooke, also spoke of the man she described as the "most kissed man in Jamaica, a man who was always on the move".

She said, "I turned down prestigious jobs and scholarships to remain with this man."

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The future of progressive politics in Jamaica

published: Sunday March 16, 2008 in the Sunday Gleaner
Peter D. Phillips, Contributor

Last week, as some of us gathered at National Heroes Park to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the passing of Michael Manley, one could not help wondering as to the fate of his legacy. Together with his father N.W. Manley, Michael was the standard-bearer and indeed, a main champion of a Jamaican tradition of progressive politics.

They were not the only ones to champion this tradition. Rather, each in his generation was simply the main figure developing and articulating ideas that were generally shared by their peers. Neither were they always agreed with. Within the People's National Party (PNP), as in the case of the so-called Four Hs (Ken Hill, Frank Hill, Richard Hart and Arthur Henry), they were viewed by a more radical left as not being radical enough; outside the party, the local establishment, as dangerously disruptive of the social order.

Despite all this, however, the progressive tradition was well-established in modern Jamaican politics, with a clearly stated body of ideas and a well-defined organisational presence in the PNP, the trade union movement, and in the cultural and artistic community. Embracing the philosophical outlook of 'democratic socialism' and its implied commitment to a more equitable social order, their intellectual and political legacy was in fact rooted in a far-reaching critique and analysis of the Jamaican reality and the history of plantation society with its attendant disfigurements of economic inequality, social and racial oppression and cultural attitudes of superiority and inferiority between the different races.

Independent nationhood
In summary, the core principles of the progressive political tradition were first, the commit-ment to independent nationhood for the Jamaican people and to the development of national institu-tions, such as to enable the Jamaican nation to secure a viable and creditable place among the world community of states.

Second, there was the commitment to equality, that is, to the building of a more equitable society through the restructuring of patterns of ownership and distribution of wealth. The expansion of social opportunities and access to education, health, housing and other social services, was a necessary element in the pursuit of a more equitable society.

In the political sphere, the principal commitment was to democracy. The focus was not only on the people's right to vote - the PNP having championed the demand for Universal Adult Suffrage - but it also meant extending the means whereby the population would have an opportunity to participate regularly in the key decision-making processes affecting their lives, whether at the national or local levels, and whether at the work-place or in their communities. This was the essence of Michael Manley's notion of "The Politics of Participation".

Similarly, Michael Manley was to move explicitly to define and advance the notion of 'self-reliance' as a central plank of the political platform of progressive politics. Self-reliance for him was both the principle underpinning national action and the objective of the cultural transformation needed by the nation.

This political tradition lay behind much of Jamaica's success. A viable nation state was consolidated. Regular changes of administration have been achieved by way of elections. Access to the educational system and to health care and other social services has expanded for the majority of the people.

Yet, despite all of this, Jamaica bears all the marks of a society in crisis. Murder rates are among the highest in the world. Reports abound of violence and rampant sexual depravity in our schools. Evidence mounts of corruption in public life affecting not only our representatives in Parliament, but others, including civil servants, police, etc., who hold positions of public trust.
People yearn for solutions, but it is unclear to the population whether solution is possible and if so, where will it come from. Routinely, when polled, a majority of the population says we are moving in the wrong direction. Even so, they continue, in the majority, to participate in elections and in political life, generally.

What, then, is the role of politics in finding the solutions to these myriad problems? Further, is there scope for the progressive political tradition?

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the triumph of market-based economic systems the "end of ideology" was proclaimed. Globalisation was to be embraced, meaning that international transactions in trade and finance were to be liberalised and the disciplines required by the world-financial system were to be observed. The result to be expected was the sustained expansion of the world-economy.

Retreat from ideology
This view of the 'end of ideology' was mirrored within Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. Development choices and politics itself were effectively redefined as a matter of narrow technical choices regarding economic- management strategies, and for the provision of social services and physical infrastructure. We removed from consideration the fundamental issues of broad national objectives, and the qualitative issues as to the kind of society and the quality of nationhood that we sought to build. And politics became poorer and less idealistic because of this.
The first casualty of this "retreat from ideology" was the politics of participation and the voluntarist spirit which carried the progressive political movement since 1938. Without a grand vision of nation building, and the inspiration derived from a clearly state political philosophy or ideology, it is difficult to mobilise the kind of selfless commitment to the political process, which was typical of the early period of nationalist politics.

Instead of speaking to the high ideals of politics, and of nation-building and self-reliance, politics is reduced solely to proclaiming opportunities for personal benefits. Notions of the collective and of community have disappeared and individualism and materialism reign triumphant. Political activists who previously acted out of love of community and country now demanded pay in hard cash. As a consequence, financial demands of political organising became greater and standards of political integrity and morality were weakened.

The challenges were com-pounded for the progressive movement and the PNP in the 1990s because market liberalisa-tion and fiscal crisis was to result both in growing inequality and in reduced national control of significant segments of the economy. It was perhaps unavoid-able in the circumstances, but, nevertheless, it was counter to the traditional outlook of the progressive movement as it had evolved over the years.

Looked at in broad historical terms, it is clear that the central themes that have defined the progressive political movement over the years are still relevant today. Indeed, the quest for equality, for effective functioning national institutions, and for wholesome and beneficial cultural expression reflective of the lives and experiences of the Jamaican people, are perhaps even more urgently needed in today's intensively globalised world than at any other period in our history.

Politics of participation
Moreover, it would seem that the solutions to problems such as inter- and intra-community violence, teenage pregnancy and nihilistic sexual codes of behaviour can only be tackled on the basis of widespread popular mobilisation and community building that was implicit in Michael Manley's notion of a "politics of participation".

Perhaps the most important aspect of the progressive political legacy in Jamaica, however, was its insistence on a rigorous analysis and critique of Jamaica's social and economic reality.
The intellectual inheritance of the movement was rich, recalling the names of people such as M.G. Smith, Philip Sherlock, Douglas Hall, Rex Nettleford, and many others.

If we are to continue and build on the progress achieved thus far, politics ought never to be reduced to a simple quest for power for its own sake. Instead, we need to be clear as to the social, economic and political purposes underlying the quest for 'power'. And we have to be clear as to the guiding principles and values underpinning the political organisation or movement that seeks power.

Ideology and ideas are still very much relevant. To be sure, the progressive tradition in Jamaican politics needs a revival.

Dr Peter Phillips is Opposition spokesman on national security and leader of Opposition business in the House.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

In Memory of a Great Man

Today, March 6 marks the anniversary of the passing of former President of the PNP and Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley.

Michael Norman Manley, O.M., P.C., B.Sc. (Econ,), LL.D. (Hon.)
Fourth PM of Jamaica: March 2, 1972 – November 4, 1980, and February 13, 1989 – March 30, 1992

LEGACY:He has impacted the nation with a greater sense of importance and urgency regarding national identity, and, internationally, he has impacted the ideas of capitalist and socialist leaders with his advocacy of Democratic Socialism

PERSONALITY: Tall, handsome, forceful and flamboyant, Michael Manley has been undoubtedly Jamaica’s most eloquent, visionary, controversial, and dynamic leader since independence.

EDUCATION: He studied at Jamaica College (1935-43) and overseas at the London School of Economics (1945-49). There, he came under the influence of Harold Laski, the man more responsible than any other for the training of men who later became Commonwealth Prime Ministers. At the LSE he gained academic honours.

SERVICE: Has been a journalist, trade unionist, party president, senator, Cabinet Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Vice president of the Socialist International, and Prime Minister of Jamaica.

AUTHORSHIP:A prolific writer of articles and books. Publications include – The politics of Change (1973), Search for Solutions (1977), JAMAICA: Struggle in the Periphery (1982), Up the Down Escalator (1987), and, A History of West Indies Cricket (1988).

BORN: December 10, 1924

PARENTS: Norman Washington Manley, and wife Edna

MARRIED: Jacqueline nee Kemellardski, 1946
Thelma nee Varity, 1955
Barbara nee Lewars, 1968
Beverley nee Anderson, 1972
Glynne nee Jones, 1992

CHILDREN: Rachel, Sarah, Natasha, Joseph, David

DIED: March 6, 1997

AGE AT DEATH: 72-years old

Friday, 29 February 2008

Dealing with a Crisis

The PNP could not face a bigger set of challenges at this time! It is in Opposition after 18 years in government with a new leader. It is trying to heal after a bitter leadership contest. It has several first time MPs, one of whom has been charged with nine counts of fraud, corruption and money laundering. This according to the political fact files, is the first time a PNP MP is charged for a crime and I dare add not just a simple crime these are serious charges.

These issues are not matters for delegates and supporters. These, especially the criminal matter, are issues for strong, decisive and strategic leadership. There have been criticisims that the Party seems to be fumbling but I can understand the delay. You have to be sure of all the things involved and consensus on these matters is not easily achieved especially since this is the first time such a burden is heaped onto the PNP. Had I been the leader of the Party, I wouldnt issue a statement! After assisting Mr. Spencer to take up his bail, (yes I said assist because up until the time of his arrest he remains a member of the team you lead and failure to help will be seen as casting him out and I do understand the thin line between embracing and sending a message) I would call a press conference.

The issues to be discussed would be:
  1. The Party's position on corrupt practices
  2. The process that has been involved in dealing with the matter
  3. Acknowledge Mr. Spencer's right of innocent until proven guilty
  4. Make it clear that the he can avail himself of leadership and advice from the Party
  5. State the plans are in place for the constituency
  6. Announce his resignation, but I caution let this not be at the surprise of the constituency executive, you will need them for the by-election that will be rather quick.

The Party leader must guard against being defensive or highlighting the media's involvement. The question of Paulwell is going to be raised. He has not been charged so there is really no issue.

It will require tact in answering the questions which should last for no more than 30 minutes.

After the conference, it should be only the General Secretary that does further follow up interviews. Too many spokespersons make the issue untidy and at time they speak with different emphases.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Is this how the Party is going to be rebuilt?

It is undeniable that there are tricks in trade but if this story taken from the Observer is true, it is symptomatic of a kind of politics we should be happy to put behind us. Groups, on which the PNP is built must be more than just 'paper groups.' A serious verification must take place before the list of delegates is composed as bogus groups will determine the future of the Party and of Jamaica. This is something we can ill-afford. Here is an excerpt of the story:

Comrades gear for fierce leadership battle
Over 1,000 new groups formed in last 12 months
BY ERICA VIRTUE Observer writer
Sunday, February 24, 2008

More than 1,000 new groups of 10 or more members have been 'formed or regularised' in the People's National Party (PNP) in the last 12 months by opposing factions preparing for what is likely to be a fierce battle for the party's top leadership positions at the annual conference in September.

A PNP official who asked to remain anonymous said there was an increase in the number of groups registered in January, significant enough to suggest that challenges would be made to the leadership.

"When I saw the spike and investigated with the 'Solid' people, I thought they were involved. But it appears as if they were taken by surprise," the official said, referring to the arm of the PNP that supports vice-president Dr Peter Phillips who, in the party's internal presidential campaign that ran from late 2005 to February 2006, used the slogan 'Solid as a Rock'.
Phillips, Dr Omar Davies and Dr Karl Blythe were defeated by Portia Simpson Miller in a bruising contest that catapulted her to the prime ministership but left a rift so deep that it contributed to the party's loss at last September's general elections.

Since then, Simpson Miller's leadership has come under increased scrutiny, which was only made worse by an evaluation of the PNP's election performance conducted by a team led by University of the West Indies lecturer Professor Brian Meeks.

The evaluation commissioned by the party found, among other things, that Simpson Miller's leadership was divisive and that she demonstrated poor judgement by refusing to embrace Phillips after her elevation to the office of Prime Minister.

The Meeks report also said that the undermining and alienation of known party stalwarts by members of Simpson Miller's team, because they did not support her in the presidential contest, was another factor that cost the PNP the general elections.

Simpson Miller was also criticised for waiting too long to call the elections. Therefore, said the report, "The party began to suffer from post-presidential contest disunity, problems associated with the re-verification process for some 260,000 potential electors and a turbulent candidate selection process and the lack of money. Organisational weakness and a lack of cohesiveness came to haunt the party."

The party has been on a group-forming mission since 2005, two years after it revised its constitution and placed strict guidelines for the governance of groups. That, party insiders said, was designed to weed out the plethora of groups which existed in name only (paper groups) and which were activated only when there was the need for voting.

In at least one Corporate Area constituency, the PNP parliamentarian is said to be aware that groups have been formed. However, he was not involved in their formation. The PNP official told the Sunday Observer that groups can be registered anytime throughout the year, but to secure voting rights, they must be registered with the secretariat by January 31 each year.

The groups must have chosen a chairman, secretary and treasurer and must hold annual general meetings by January 31 for those particulars to be submitted to the secretariat. The groups must be in good financial standing at the time of registration, which must be seven clear months before the annual conference in order for their members to become eligible to vote at the conference, the party's highest decision-making body.

Last week, PNP insiders said that most of the groups formed in the last 12 months were in the party's powerful Region 3, which encompasses Kingston and St Andrew. "It seems as if defensive moves have been planned and executed, and it is still baffling some people as to where the challenges will be posed. But expect challenges," said one party official who asked for anonymity.
The five top positions in the party are those of the president and the four vice-presidents - Phillips, Derrick Kellier, Fenton Ferguson and Angela Brown-Burke.

Another source in the party suggested that one of the challenges would be mounted against Brown-Burke, a Simpson Miller supporter who secured enough votes to defeat Sharon Hay-Webster in 2006. Hay-Webster had supported Phillips in the presidential race. Another party insider said last week that it was unlikely that Kellier, who was elected to the position after the party persuaded Wykeham McNeill to stand down, would seek re-election. Party officials, including chairman Robert Pickersgill, Region 3 chairman Phillip Paulwell, and general secretary Peter Bunting did not respond to the Sunday Observer's request for interviews.

Last week, sources in the party told the Sunday Observer that the fall-out from the Cuban light bulb scandal has strengthened resolve to change the leadership as efforts to get responses from "individuals involved were not forthcoming".

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Rebuilding the People's National Party

The appraisal of the People’s National Party’s performance in the 2007 General Elections is now complete. The report entitled - BUILDING FOR JAMAICA’S FUTURE: UNITY, PHILOSOPHY AND ORGANISATION, is an analytic review of the factors that contributed to the failure of the Party to secure victory at the polls. The report is available here: