Louis Moyston | Healing the PNP's wounds
The article, 'Whither the PNP?' (The Sunday Gleaner, September 4, 2016), by Arnold Bertram was a bold and brilliant exposition of some aspects of the present state of affairs in the People's National Party (PNP). According to the writer, the root of the matter is a crisis in leadership. Skillfully, he notes that the crisis predates the current party leader, but "the process has accelerated during her watch." Critical of the PNP leader's selection of the general secretary and treasurer, he writes a dazzling piece on comparative leadership qualities and the excellent selection of support staff and advisers. This column aims to add additional discussion on the issue of degeneration. It seeks also to address the imbalance in the focus on party selectees listed above and not Cabinet selectees. It continues by looking on how the 'wound' arising from recent leadership challenges drives the process of rapid degeneration.
It is true that many party members "give up in despair" as a response to this perceived disintegration of the PNP, especially when party leadership breaks all the rules by imposing outsiders over local and capable representatives. Whatever renewal means, there can be no progress out of the present predicament in the PNP unless the 'wound' is treated and healed.
The article repeats, in a brief manner, the weakness of the post-2016 election evaluation. The focus was on the PNP and a profound neglect of a weak Cabinet performance in some critical areas. This column emphasises on two Cabinet selectees made by the party leader - the ministers of information; and youth and culture. These are two critical ministries requiring persons with both experience and creative capabilities. The massive failure of these two weak links contributed immensely to the defeat of the PNP in the recent general election. The party pays the price for the weaknesses of the Government. There are members of the party who have been sidelined due to the politics of personal control inspired by the 'wound'.
What the news media perceived as disorders in the PNP, regarding some of the challenges to incumbents, was rebellious reaction of party members to the parachuting of candidates from outside of the party and constituency. Part of the degeneration is rooted in this process. For example, the leadership of the PNP committed the greatest rape of internal democracy in the installation of Lisa Hanna into the safest PNP seat. There was a popular local candidate, but she was maligned and rejected under the suspicion that her husband was a member of the 'other camp'. Bewitched by Hanna's beauty, the party leadership did the same gerrymandering when she was challenged in 2015 by a local parish councillor.
The parachuting of candidates by the leadership did not stop here; there was also the case of the South East St Elizabeth seat. These major missteps of the party leadership created dissent, furthered the internal divisions and invoked a deeper feeling of "a sense of betrayal"; and also exhibited the readiness of party members "to give up in despair".
Many things have gone wrong in the PNP. Internal discussions are almost impossible, due to fear of offending and being abused by defensive 'pit bulls'. Party members are fed up with the retreat from ideas and democracy inside the PNP. The PNP belongs to its members, not just the leadership. Philosophy, cause and personal achievements are some important ingredients for both the membership and leadership. The future of politics belongs to the intelligent. The time is right to begin the conversation to restore PNP to its former glory.