Sun | Jan 21, 2018

Ronald Mason | PNP in crisis

Published:Sunday | August 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Liberal democracies tend to give rise to multiple political parties. This phenomenon exists because the very nature of liberal democracies is founded on a multiplicity of the views that contend for acceptance.

Populations in some democracies tend to express their affiliation, in large part, with one dominant party. Singapore comes to mind. The same party has controlled state power, without interruption, for many decades.

Jamaica, after Independence, initially fell into the two-term election cycle. One party would govern for two terms and then give way to power being controlled by the other major party. No minor political party, of which there have been many, has ever been able to have a seat in Parliament. These minor parties have represented differing interests as varied as the Milliard Johnson Party and the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party, grounded almost entirely in black nationalism, and the Jamaica Farmers' Party, whose objective was the retention of the aristocratic plantation economy.

We should be proud, as a nation, that our democracy, in its evolution to date, has provided room for contrasting philosophies to contend. The exercise at election time developed to gauge how much support parties had by whether their standard-bearers lost their nominating deposit. The dominance of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People's National Party (PNP) has been very much well noted.


Both the PNP and the PNP, in their respective emphases on being people centred and the other being leader centred, have served. But they have failed in their delivery of good governance and economic advancement. Despite these obvious shortcomings, one was not inclined to question the sustainability of either party to lead - that is, until now. The PNP is in crisis. It is a crisis emanating from weak, ineffective leadership. The party has been unmasked to reveal its divisiveness and raw power grabs. How did we get here? The populism and the desire to lead at any cost, with little regard for competence and recognition of personal strengths and weaknesses, have been foisted on the nation in the person of Portia Simpson Miller.

The prerequisites to govern Jamaica in the 21st century demand an ability to cope with, understand, plan for, and implement policy directives in a rapidly changing world. Portia Simpson Miller has not displayed anything that would suggest a strong understanding of the needs of Jamaica.

When you, as the leader, respond, "Don't ask me, ask the PNP;" when you refuse to meet with the press to provide insight into your grasp of the issues of the day and matters to do with the betterment of the State; and then you continue with stating that you have ministers who will speak on these matters, you don't inspire confidence.

When it came to the actual election campaign, you refused to debate. How then do you indicate to the country that you understand, and can spearhead, policy initiatives? The constant reference as to predecessors who did not step down after electoral losses and who were allowed to retain the mantle of leadership for as long as they desired does not suggest that you put the country first.

In a limp defence to the outrageous revelations coming from the treasurer of the PNP, in a leaked report, to the July gathering of the National Executive Council, operatives have argued that the written report was tendered, but not accepted, because the treasurer was not present. That's as lame and weak an excuse as could be contrived.

The ethics of the party are now being questioned. The refrain on the streets is that if they would pocket funds from their internal funds, what would they do as custodians of funds belonging to the Government?

The factions have been in a bitter fight for power. This is not unusual in a political party, but it is scandalous that party operatives, if the allegations are true, ran separate, parallel fundraising campaigns.

One cannot but recall the action taken by former leader, Norman Manley, when faced with internal fractiousness in the 1950s. He said goodbye to the 4 Hs and the party moved on. That removed from the party a fair amount of political talent in the form of Ken Hill, Frank Hill, Richard Hart and Willie Henry. The trade union movement and the agricultural sector were directly impacted. But the party regrouped and moved forward.

The JLP is not a paragon of virtue in comparison to the PNP. What it does have is a leader who has been described in harsh terms by the courts of the land. He has offered no contrition to the country for Lettergate but rather said "that's not what the people are talking about". This completely undermines his role in leading with a respect for the rule of law and the projection of a positive image for the population.


Mr Holness proffers a defence on real estate that stretches credibility, and to make sure that the accusations are chilled in the court of public opinion, lawsuits have been filed. Sub judice provides a marvellous gag.

The current Government's centralised decision-making authority rests so much in one man. It has become difficult, six months after the election, to conduct an analysis of the contribution of members of the Cabinet like Delroy Chuck, Mike Henry, Karl Samuda, Andrew Wheatley, Shahine Robinson, Olivia Grange, Audley Shaw, et al. Are we back to the days of the 'One Don'?

n Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to and