Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Orville Taylor: Pryceless: but no MasterCard

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2016 | 1:00 AM

In 2011, leading up to the general election, Comrade Leader Portia Simpson Miller, president of the People's National Party (PNP), made implicit and explicit promises that she would increase the status of women in her party. Apart from that, she also waxed poetic about pulling more youth into service, and although her backers try to downplay her commitment to it, the insertion of gays in her Cabinet.

I don't know if the closet is a different piece of furniture from the breakfront, but clearly the party seems to be backtracking on its promise. The fact is, we now see young Raymond Pryce pushed out of the front line of the party, reducing the number of youth parliamentarians on the PNP's side.

Within the party, there were two youngsters from whom the world was expecting a paradigm shift. Damion Crawford, former president of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Guild of Students and also of the PNP's Youth Organisation (PNPYO), had performed a classic case of doing it to himself. As the former member of parliament (MP) for St Andrew East Rural, it was simply, "Cock mouth kill cock," as the young dreadlocked rooster eventually had to leave the constituency like a 'sensi fowl'. Much of the blame for his demise came from his initially saying that he was leaving representational politics.

A man in whose political boundaries lies the camp of the devout Rastafarian order, the Bobo Shanti, he, without any seeming reason, and against the run of play, announced that he was not going to seek re-election. Then, equally surprisingly, he said that it was a joke. Perhaps it was because he realised that he had only built his foundation there and needed more time to complete the rest of the edifice. But 'bull frog sey, what is joke to you is death to me.'

Left out in the cold

Ultimately, the delegates voted, and he was left out in the cold. True, his replacement of his replacement is also young and female at that, but one can't help but wonder if there was some underlying reason beyond his earlier resignation that made him false-start.

However, young Pryce seemed to have done nothing wrong. No utterances were made, no openly disrespectful comments regarding the constituents, and no indication that he had lost interest in being the man for North East St Elizabeth. Without a peep, there was the announcement that he was no longer interested in being the MP. No proper explanation was given to the public, although we were informed that there were pockets of discontent.

The finger on the pulse, however, indicates that there were strong elements behind him up to when the announcement was made that he was turning his back on the people who loved him. All had reason to believe that with a little massaging of his political capital, he would have regained electile success. These stalwarts, including an elder, the most distinguished Comrade, did not want to see him go.

For all the smugness of the PNP's inner circle and hierarchy, the average person was still mystified as to how this youth was just so willing to walk away, without fanfare, although he did commit himself to the support of whatever the party was doing. No one in the PNP owes me an explanation as to why he did not seek to continue. But the uncontested selection of the eponymous Evon Redman was reminiscent of a 1983 general election when the PNP decided not to take part.

Then, it was a misguided decision; this time, however, my canine nostrils detect something very fishy, and it has nothing to do with the Labourites in the adjacent constituency.

Nonetheless, in a transparent democratic election, Redman was the man. Doubtless, the majority of the more than 400 delegates said yes, but obviously winning a contest as the sole contender doesn't mean that in the presence of the preferred candidate, they would have voted in the same way. Clearly unassuaged, a large number of supporters voiced their opposition despite it falling on deaf ears in the hallowed halls of Old Hope Road.

No handout politics

Like Crawford, Pryce was reputed not be into handout politics. After all, it would be a bit bemusing if the dread were to be involved in pork-barrel politics. And, certainly, Pryce was not into the mackerel, sardine or salt fish circus either. Nevertheless, somebody found the capital to fund a motorcade all the way from the bottom of Spur Tree Hill, through Manchester, along Mandela to go to the headquarters popularised by Manley, to get Pryce back in the seat.

Much of the behaviour was unacceptable. Reports were made of tyres being slashed, and ultimately, disrespectful comments made to the party president, Portia Simpson Miller. Whatever be the grievance, acts of violence and intimidation have no place in a democracy, and0 more so, in an internal party contest. Furthermore, under no circumstance must the office of party president ever be disrespected.

Yet, respect is oftentimes something the holder of the office can allow to trickle away, when the vessel of reverence is punctured with holes of perceived unfairness and disrespect. For all the 'Icy Mints' that I have eaten, this whole Pryce saga has still left me with sardine and red herring on my breath.

Rumours circulated that he was removed as deputy general secretary by a majority of votes. Thankfully, the later debunked story was not read by many, given that it was on the front page of a much-less-read newspaper and the true story was that Pryce resigned in the interest of the party. For the record, a resignation which is coerced is constructive dismissal in labour law. So far, I have seen nothing that proved there was any collusion or involvement of Pryce in the protest. Furthermore, I'm unaware of any judicial process in which he was asked to defend any position.

In the end, the supporters have apologised to Pryce for the ultimate result in which he is now an outsider. Let us see who has the last laugh. Senior Comrade Daphne Holmes suggests that the forcible insertion of Redman will cost the PNP the seat. She is an icon in the parish, and we know the Jamaican adage about water, bottom and fish.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'.