Sat | Aug 19, 2017

PNP paid the ultimate price

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2016 | 2:00 AM

The 17th election since universal adult suffrage is over and the Jamaican people have returned the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to government. Congratulations to them as we embark on a new course.

A number of things must obviously change, as we will not have a 20-member Cabinet, and new entrants to Parliament will feature prominently. Persons like Floyd Green, Zavia Mayne, and Fayval Williams will have big responsibilities.

All the analyses of the 10-Point Plan, with emphasis on the income tax threshold for workers earning J$1.5 million or less; the doubling of the National Minimum Wage, and the removal of auxiliary fees are to be expected by April 1, 2016. The JLP won the election by increasing the turnout of those who voted for them in December 2011. The PNP failed to even secure the same level of support in the prior general election.

The review of the PNP's handling of the campaign will expose some fundamental errors and, yes, hindsight is 20/20 vision. But the party paid the price for the poor communication with the people, as well as Paul Burke's stewardship as party general secretary.

Portia Simpson Miller could not find it possible to have regular dialogue with the people through the press. She was always "working, working, working". As soon as the election campaign was announced, she found the time and made the effort to speak to the press.

The media reported that after she cast her vote on the morning of February 25, she was asked if she would resign if she lost the election. Her response, "Do I look like a loser?", proved to be prophetic.

Portia Simpson Miller, for the best interest of the party and the country, should resign forthwith and take Paul Burke and Angela Brown Burke with her. The party needs rejuvenation, inspired leadership and competence. Clearly, this is lacking.

She never reshuffled the Cabinet beyond swapping around Horace Dalley and Fenton Ferguson, and adding Agriculture to Derrick Kellier after Roger Clarke died.

Now, the people have spoken and provided an opportunity for non-performers to depart. What can Robert Pickersgill, Anthony Hylton, Peter Phillips, Ronald Thwaites and Derrick Kellier provide for a party in opposition? The new face of the PNP needs to be modelled on Julian Robinson, Raymond Pryce from the Senate, Dayton Campbell and Lisa Hanna. The party needs people with competence and not the recycling of previous failures. Phillip Paulwell has a history of repeated ministerial failures since he was young and exuberant. He is not a youngster any more.

 

The Peter Principle

 

What comes to mind is the Peter Principle. The renewal of the party must start immediately, as it would not be surprising to find the JLP unable to keep the commitments within the time frame that it made to the country in order to secure victory at the polls.

It is not unknown for there to be civil opposition springing up in countries where the IMF agreements are mismanaged. Clearly, the people of Jamaica need and want economic relief. Playing Russian roulette with the macroeconomics of the country to satisfy some people at this point in time is very, very risky behaviour.

The PNP will be waiting to establish its relevance if the JLP does not deliver the April 1, 2016 tax relief and minimum wage increase deadline. It would be so tragic to watch this play out.

The democracy we embrace is strong. We participated in an exercise that was largely free and fair. Crime was not a dominant feature of the election campaign, despite having some tragic loss of life.

In addition, it was refreshing to view the headquarters of both political parties prepare for the closing of the polls. One party blocked the street, set up an elaborate stage and electronics for a party. All the physical features were on display reflecting of their anticipation. The other party confined its relatively simple operations to the space within the confines of their property boundary. Both parties had relatively few persons on their compounds after the polls closed.

As the evening wore on, the crowds gathered faster at Old Hope Road than they did at Belmont Road, and then we saw the result of the democratic swing began to arrive. After only 17 elections from 1944 till now, we have embraced the credibility of the results. The people saw and heard, understood and accepted, that the governance responsibilities should change by the ballot rather than the bullet.

It is good to be a democrat. As the crowds swelled at Belmont Road, I couldn't help but think of Haiti, independent for more 200 years, 100 miles from our shores, but having not yet established credible power-changing methodologies.

This marvellous country must address the quality of political leadership with which we are burdened. When we get political leadership right, the people will participate. Then we will be truly the greatest little country on earth.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.