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: