Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | Tinkering with Renewal, Time for a Radical Overhaul

Published:Thursday | June 9, 2016 | 6:00 AM

The People's National Party (PNP) is in a peculiar position as it wrestles with the notion of 'renewal' and maintaining much of what has been touted as sound beliefs and practices that make it the political party of choice. What a prekkeh!

Many Jamaicans, especially (disgruntled?) party supporters, are hankering for the cessation of the habitual pandering to populism and for the much talked about revitalisation to commence. Undoubtedly, the PNP will have to take stock and make some really tough decisions before its annual conference in September.

One can certainly expect more tensions and fractions to arise, and that egos will be bruised because of difficult decisions that will be taken. Those leading the call for and process for much-needed changes for the resuscitation of the party must not cower, or back down. Only good can come from renewal. Many persons - some for obvious reasons - will want to 'intervene' to maintain the current state of affairs. Why? Because, among other things, some are convinced that the election loss was a result of a poorly developed campaign and weak organisation on the ground, and nothing else.

The report of the Julian Robinson-led ad hoc committee that was established to probe the defeat in the general election should be instructive in this regard. It should not, however, be the only thing that informs/guides the party as it repairs and restructure itself. The PNP needs much more than a self-reflection that is centred around an election. The PNP has, for quite some time, been on life support, skirting around the need to renew itself. It desperately needs to return to its founding principles to inform how they can revive and/or make said principles relevant for the present and generations to come.

As I have said elsewhere, through the defeat in the general election, held on February 25, Jamaicans have given the PNP an opportunity to start the process of renewal. The party must, therefore, be honest and decisive as well as open-minded about what is most urgent at this time. It must divorce some of its values, beliefs and practices that they have been holding on to so dearly despite the fact that they do not augur well for the party and, most important, good governance and democracy.

I, and many other Jamaicans, have taken a keen interest in the recent developments because we believe renewal and the 'radical overhaul' that is required is fundamental to making the party relevant and purposeful, whether it is in Opposition or Government.

 

RENEWAL WITH CONTINUITY

I have also taken note of recent comments that caution that renewal can't be about 'out with the old, in with the new'. Where did we get that idea? As a friend said, 'We must have renewal with continuity'. Notwithstanding, the party must, as Raymond Pryce has said, "eschew the tendency to preserve as if under formaldehyde. Instead, it must evolve. Breathe new air and engage rather than enrage younger adults and professionals in search for the relevance it has lost".

It would appear that more and more people are beginning to understand and appreciate the concept of renewal. The next couple of weeks should be interesting. Pryce says that "Recent remarks credited to Derrick Kellier, among others, confirm that many are correctly seeing that a new epoch has dawned. It is not about dates of birth - for that would have been too easy. It is about a metamorphosis in structure, outlook, presentation, representation and responsiveness to traditional as well as emerging challenges that face modern societies."

It is also no secret that the party has seemingly not been very successful in attracting and retaining a cadre of young people and professionals and is part of the reason it seems out of date.

If left unreversed, it could spell a death knell for the region's most important agency of thought and development.

One sincerely hopes that more people will log on to progress (read renewal). Embrace the self-introspection and radical changes to come that will (hopefully?) result in the party being less arrogant, pigheaded, entitled, hierarchical and more relevant and democratic.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.