Orville Taylor | First and second Peter
It is an opportunity that he saw or Esau, but this is no Jacob and there is no birthright at stake here. Yet, in this new dispensation, there is but one name – Peter – shared by the two, and the younger, middleweight Jake is seeking to unseat the champion.
It is easy to get confused. After all, the chronicles are replete with stories of Jacob being the father of a new generation of chosen people, who ultimately were in the wilderness for several generations after. On the other hand, there is the former fisher of men, a warmonger, who did not hesitate to unsheathe his sword hours before the greatest event in the history of mankind.
Still, despite his vocal declaration and bravado, Peter fell asleep on the job, because his heart was willing but his flesh weak. Moreover, he might have qualified for modern Jamaican politics because of the gap between what is promised what is delivered.
Having presented a unified face to the leader of the pack, the response was, “tonight, before the rooster crows twice, you yourself will disown me three times.”
But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
What happened afterwards is well known. Peter, the rock, when faced by the enemies of Jesus, ‘punked’ out and denied knowing Jesus. He disavowed the Saviour like a cousin who was caught breaking into the corner shop.
Flash forward to the 21st century, the cock crowed twice and after two electile malfunctions, including failing to stand up against the female candidate from the green side, the challenge which was never admitted is now made.
THROWING DOWN THE GAUNTLET
Jake has put the gauntlet down and decided to challenge for the leadership of the People’s National Party (PNP). Two years into the tenure of Peter 1, of Phillips lineage, Peter 2 has made it clear that he is prepared to contest the leadership of the 81-year-old political institution. True, we had heard that there was no such move from the Bunting one, but the cock has crowed twice and it might not be able to get up for the third salvo.
This challenge has the potential to divide the party once more and for the fourth time in 50 years. What is insidious about some of the comments is that some believe that Jake should have either waited his turn or until the time was right.
Now, I do not know what is a good time, but from the little I know about the constitution of the PNP, it is perfectly legal for anyone to offer him or herself for any position of leadership at the annual conference or where a vacancy is created by resignation, death, or any other misadventure.
Back in 1969, the party faced its first contest. Attorney Vivian Blake was the preferred choice of the ailing Norman Manley, founding president of the party. However, democracy prevailed and it was Michael Manley who was the unanimous victor. It was a united PNP, although it meant that the originally more intellectual and elite-oriented party had switched places with the Alexander Bustamante-formed Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to become the party of the poor and working class. An important perception, though: although Blake was a lawyer and supposedly of higher stature; however, Manley was in fact a graduate of the very prestigious London School of Economics and thus, an intellectual.
In 1992, when Portia Simpson felt that the party was actually a workers and roots party, she was quickly disabused of the notion and P.J. Patterson soundly whipped her and held on to the leadership for another 14 years.
Even today, the questions still prevail as to whether someone didn’t ‘colt the game’ when she beat Phillips in 2006. Nonetheless, when very disgruntled after the 2007 loss of the party under Simpson Miller, Phillips was just like the screwdriver of the same name. However, there was no starpoint and he got stuck and screwed into place on the back burner.
Still, there is a Shakespearean drama, Macbeth, where it said, “Bloody instructions, which being taught return to plague the inventor.” Phillips can get the sheriff, deputies, and the posses wholly behind him. None of this matters. He taught the younger Peter that it is acceptable to challenge a sitting leader of the party, even within a year after losing an election. Call it what you will, many persons treat the last two ‘buy’ elections as indicators of the woes of the PNP.
Now, I do not know if there is any evidence that Peter 2 can beat Peter 1 and if either can beat the JLP in any general election. If Peter 2 thinks that his challenge is in the best interest of his party, then by all means, he has a moral obligation to put himself forward. If his motive is personal ... then ... .
Democratic or simply desperate?
As for the special delegates conference where it is said that the contest should take place there. The party’s own rules preclude such trampling on its democratic processes. Nonetheless, if Peter 1 takes a page out of the book of Edward Seaga, then resigning and having an early election would on the face of it suit him in keeping his position. But would that be truly democratic or simply desperate?
In any event, my view is that a true resignation means that the incumbent will not reapply for the job. But politicians do politics.
In all this, our very democracy is at stake. If Comrades among themselves cannot run a proper election, then they cannot run a country.
In the Bible, there are two verses. To the first I quote appropriately from 1 Peter: “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you”. And to the second, I cite 2 Peter; 1: “make every effort to confirm your calling and election”.
May good sense prevail.
Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.