Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Garnett Roper | Let Mark Golding pick his team

Published:Sunday | November 22, 2020 | 8:22 AM

Newly sworn in Opposition Leader Mark Golding (centre) stands with his family (from left) Benjamin Golding (son), Sandra Golding (wife), Tasmin Golding (daughter), and Jessica Golding (daughter) at King’s House  on Tuesday, November 10, 2020.
Newly sworn in Opposition Leader Mark Golding (centre) stands with his family (from left) Benjamin Golding (son), Sandra Golding (wife), Tasmin Golding (daughter), and Jessica Golding (daughter) at King’s House on Tuesday, November 10, 2020.
Garnett Roper
Garnett Roper
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Mark Golding has won a decisive contest as president of the People’s National Party (PNP). The Comrades have indicated whom they want to lead the party. The issue is settled, there needs to be no further proxy contests. He has won by a margin not of one per cent but of almost 10 per cent. Therefore, he ought to be allowed to pick his team.

The team that he picks understandably will be drawn primarily from among his key supporters, those that have shown capacity for the post for which they are to be selected and those that have shown commitment to the vision and values of the Comrade Leader. There is a perverse thinking that is being promoted that in the name of unity, that the Comrade Leader should sideline his key supporters and appoint those who were on the opposite team to continue to offer leadership to the party. I believe the idea is flawed and should be honoured in the breach. Let me say why.

Uniting, reorganising, modernising

First of all, the objectives that are to be pursued by the PNP include uniting the party, but they also include reorganising the party and modernising the movement in a way that ensures the galvanising of the energy and support of Comrades, and then that will spill over into the broader public and electorate. In any selection, it seems to me that Golding’s passion and purpose must take priority. Key operatives need to enjoy a certain unity of purpose with the Comrade Leader. One has to be clear that there is demonstrable capacity on the part of the candidate for the position of chairman and/or general secretary, and there must also be demonstrable indicators of a kinship of ideas and spirit with the Comrade Leader. This has been the convention throughout the history of the PNP; it should be no different this time around.

Bear in mind that those who now enjoy positions of leadership were stacked on the basis of their support for then Comrade Leader Dr Peter Philips. While this ought not to disqualify anyone, it cannot be the basis of the guarantee of a shoo-in for a position of leadership. It cannot be an excuse for them to continue to corner positions of leadership in the PNP. The PNP has elected its new leader in the person of Comrade Mark Golding, and he ought to enjoy the freedom to appoint his confidants to key positions. The Comrade Leader ought not to be made to hostage to an National Executive Council (NEC) that is more representative of the previous incumbent’s approach.

The second argument supporting the idea that key positions ought to be filled by those who supported the losing team is founded on the myth that the September 3 general election was lost by the PNP because of disunity, and the disunity was because of the Rise Campaign. In response to which I say the following: the fact that persons were courageous enough to be part of the challenge for PNP leadership in 2019 cannot be a basis to disqualify them from being part of the leadership team of the new CL. Disunity has been a feature polarising the PNP since the contest among Portia Simpson Miller, Dr Peter Philips, Dr Karl Blythe, and Dr Omar Davies in 2006.

Rise campaign did not create disunity; in fact, the choice of the slogan Rise United reflected the perception of the reality and danger of disunity and a commitment to reuniting the party. Furthermore, if disunity was deepened in the party between 2019 and 2020 it had more to do with the triumphal and exclusionary actions and decisions of those who won that contest than it had to do with the mere challenge for leadership. The irony is that Rise was quite prescient in its bid on the basis that if the PNP did not change course with its leadership, the PNP would be wiped out at the polls. It has proven to have been prophetic. I do not believe that a ‘winner takes all’ is the approach that ought to be taken, but I believe ‘a loser takes all’ approach is even less appropriate. In the current circumstances, that reasoning would be perverse.

New Focus

The Comrade Leader is anxious to put behind him (as a basis of selection) who supported whom, whether in 2019 or 2020, but instead focus on who is best suited and offers the best strategic advantage to the party. However, his overtures have not been responded to with big-heartedness and enthusiasm. The Comrade Leader cannot afford to be naïve in the matter of making key appointments. The party should allow the Comrade Leader a free hand, the delegates that supported him must ensure that his slate succeeds for the good of the party. The post of GS does not need a contest at this time. Whoever the Comrade Leader wants should be selected by the NEC. I believe the chairman should be the person who enjoys the clearest kinship of ideas and kindred spirit with the Comrade Leader.

The unity of the party is a unity around the talents in the PNP devoted to the pursuit of the transcendent purpose of a well-organised and resourced movement ultimately aimed at the upliftment and empowerment of the Jamaican people writ large. I believe that the core leadership team should comprise those who can hit the ground running with the Comrade Leader, and who have developed a habit of working closely and effectively with him.

- Garnett Roper, JP, PhD, is president of Jamaica Theological Seminary. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com