Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Orville Taylor | A time to heal for PNP

Published:Sunday | September 20, 2020 | 6:35 AM

COVID-19 is a simple reminder that for all the politics, economics and victories of man over man, nothing can stop the inevitable. Importantly, we can do the posthumous lip service and bandwagoning as much as we want. However, if we fail to acknowledge the contributions of people while alive, treat them with respect and attempt to atone for the wrongs we have done to them, we are sheer hypocrites.

Often when we dig into the bowels and annals of history, we find festering wounds and deep pus-filled holes. Too often the perpetrators of evil in the past are so caught up in their egos and incorrigibility that they go ‘wrong and strong’ instead of just eating a bit of humble pie and attempting to mend fences. The need to ‘fess up’ and fix it might not be a priority in a divorce case with no offspring. However, abuse in a family has to be addressed.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it COVID-19 took 1988 bobsleigher and son of backbone Rastafari Sam Clayton Jr. Recently, it has taken iconic Jamaican musical legend Toots Hibbert, political veteran D.K. Duncan, and at press time, we are praying that retired People’s National Party (PNP) stalwart Bobby Pickersgill will make full recovery.

Toots was convicted in 1966 on what he described as a ‘trumped-up’ marijuana possession charge. During his incarceration he penned the popular 54-46 Was My Number. Despite its catchy beat and rhythm, it reflected a profound and painful hurt, steeped in an act of injustice. “… I was innocent of what they done to me … . They were wrong (ooh, ooh), oh yeah.” Yet, as far as I know, no attempt was made by any of the successive governments that honoured him to address this.

Now, the principles of natural justice require an investigation into the side of the police officer and other prosecutorial elements. Nonetheless, we let Toots die with this unsettled. Even if there is an expungement now, it will be too late.


That was 54 years ago; but 46 years ago, the PNP discovered its identity. Duncan was right at the helm with Michael Manley when he declared democratic socialism as the doctrine of the party. Moving away from the colonial-type attire, and decrying ostentatious elitism, he redefined the PNP as a party of the working class; not merely the poor. Not everyone was happy with the changes. However, by the time he faced the electorate in 1976, the impression was that the entire party leadership was ‘under manners’. True, it lost the 1980 election, but it was not because of disunity or the failure to heal wounds. It was because, among other factors, the Jamaican electorate had fallen out of love with its leader.

In 1992, some 54 years after the party was founded, there was a contest for the leadership between heir apparent ‘Fresh Prince’ P.J. Patterson and Portia Simpson. Full credit to the victorious P.J., who has never been involved in long-tongued matches in public. He put the bitter words spoken by Portia campaigners behind him and only rose to defend some of the aspersions when rival Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) president Edward Seaga reprised an infamous line of a Buju Banton song. And yes, Comrades, the first time I heard the nasty shades raised publicly was by PNP supporters in a PNP garrison.

PJ might not have been a balm yard man or revivalist like Seaga, but he was a healer and his party backed him with pumped fists every time.

When he departed in 2006, some 54 years after the PNP had purged itself of the communist four Hs – Hill, Hill, Henry and Hart – the split decision left Peter Phillips stunned by Portia. Inasmuch as it seemed to involve some last-minute supporters of another candidate blighting the process by switching lanes, very little was done to placate the large set of Philippians.

Then came his untimely challenge, which in Shakespeare’s Macbeth were “Bloody instructions, which being taught return to plague the inventor.” True, Peter Bunting’s stunting led to stumping but it reveals something thick like dumpling. Unresolved disrespect and abuse always come back to destroy collective entities.

Thus, inasmuch as I disavow his QC while he advocates the removal of the Queen, I totally agree with A.J. Nicholson that the PNP needs to look internally and not only cauterise the wounds inflicted since 2006 but to once and for all be as united as Jake and the Fatman.

After all, the RJRGLEANER Don Anderson poll did suggest that voters would have voted 54-46 in the last election. But PNP voters stayed home.

If they can’t heal themselves and unite, they are not ready to unify and lead a nation and the JLP will give it to them ‘one ti me (huh), two times (huh-huh)’.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to and