Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Gordon Robinson | It’s time PNP stops whimpering; and makes changes. NOW!

Published:Sunday | November 5, 2017 | 12:53 AM
PNP supporters in South East St Mary parade on nomination day, October 9, with a placard of candidate Dr Shane Alexis. The medical doctor had been criticised for seeking to enter representational politics though not a citizen of Jamaica.

Predictably, PNP suffered a humiliating defeat in SE St Mary.

When 60% of a constituency’s electorate turns up for a by-election we can be sure they have an emphatic message to deliver.  When a political party in Opposition, with “new” leadership, describes said by-election as a referendum on government’s performance then loses by almost 1,000 votes a seat it had won just 20 months ago, surely it’s time to eschew  finger-pointing in favour of honest introspection and radical overhaul?

Don’t hold your breaths expecting any of the above from PNP.  Instead of focusing on issues during its campaign, it preferred whining about “buy-elections” due, inter alia, to road works coinciding with the vote. But, isn’t this a reality of all Jamaican elections? When the Old Ball and Chain sees road works anywhere she immediately quips “Election coming!” 

But, for me, the most disappointing factor in the disastrous PNP campaign was the appalling arrogance exposed by its neglect to make adjustments to its failed general election strategy.  We heard the same old nasty personal attacks on one of Jamaica’s most popular Prime Ministers and more old-style political hypocrisy by offering a non-Jamaican candidate after PNP’s 1976 political crucifixion of Eddie Seaga.

It’s as if PNP needed a primer on how to campaign and communicate with social-media savvy Jamaicans in the 21st Century. But, wait, there IS such a primer! It’s the detailed report by PNP entitled “2016 Appraisal Committee Report” much of which I disclosed to readers exclusively in my column Can PNP Post Mortem raise the dead? (October 16, 2016).   Thirteen PNP members including Julian Robinson (Chairman) and Mark Golding formed that committee.

Twenty months later, Julian is General Secretary and Mark a Member of Parliament.  You’d expect both to grasp this opportunity to implement their own proposals.

Some of Julian/Mark’s Committee findings regarding PNP’s 2016 campaign:

The decision to focus on the then Opposition Leader’s house as a campaign issue wasn’t well received by the electorate, as polls had indicated.

So, what did PNP do in 2017?  Damion Crawford, as hatchetman, publicly re-launched most distasteful personal attacks against the PM on social media AND on a St Mary political platform for his unquestionably legal use of a St. Lucian company to hold property in Jamaica.  This was sad, pathetic desperation, unworthy of one touted for future national leadership. 

What did allegedly responsible PNP leadership do? Nothing. They cheered lustily as he spread scurrilous salacious “suss”. THIS is PNP “renewal”?

NO CLEAR MESSAGE OF HOPE

More findings from PNP’s 2016 Report:

The central message of economic management focused on achievements, and didn’t sufficiently convey a clear message of hope for the future.

What message of “hope” was sent to SE St Mary voters? PNP hasn’t accepted any responsibility for past misdeeds; for over 20 years of stagnant growth; or for their own scandal bag packed with government corruption and neglect. If a rejected government doesn’t accept past errors, as Joshua did in 1989, it can’t convey hope for future improvement if returned to office.

The Party’s overall message lacked impact and didn’t resonate with voters.

The truth is PNP had NO MESSAGE except to tell St Mary how bad JLP was; to cuss JLP for promising to fix roads; and to mock PM for rolling up his trousers and wading across the river to meet with Chesterfield voters then standing barefoot amongst them actually LISTENING to them which I thought was a political master stroke.  Peter Phillips arrived by helicopter at least once thus avoiding the bad roads; avoiding wetting his toes in water; avoiding dirtying his shoes in mud. THAT’s the message the rural folk of St Mary received. 

Yes, JLP outspent PNP by multiples. That’s never stopped a Jamaican electorate voting against an incumbent government. Shahine Robinson cantered in NE St Ann despite PNP spending gazillions in that by-election. It’s time PNP stops whimpering; looks itself squarely in the eye; and makes necessary changes. NOW!

CONSTANT BELLYACHING

One last appraisal committee finding:

       There was no branding of candidates, e.g. their positioning in social
       media, presentation, how and what they communicate to supporters
       and prospective voters alike.

Once again, JLP commanded social media. The message from JLP surrogates was uplifting, positive and inclusive. PNP continued to accuse JLP of buying votes and to constantly bellyache instead of trying to find out what VOTERS were bellyaching about.  JLP had the pulse of the people. PNP had the pulse of the PNP.

After the specificity of the 2016 Appraisal Report, General Secretary Julian Robinson can’t avoid responsibility for PNP’s failure to adjust. His timid, sit-on-the-fence, anxious-to- please public persona seems woefully unsuited for a job that requires strong leadership and astute street generalship.

Then there was the vexed issue of citizenship.  Make no mistake THIS was the fundamental issue that thwarted PNP’s ambitions. Having made an egregious pre-nomination error by not thoroughly vetting the candidate, PNP arrogantly refused to admit any wrongdoing and contemptuously pressed on seeking to eat its political cake and have it too by a belated application for citizenship combined with PNP’s stubborn insistence all was well.

I was walking along
mindin' my business
when, out of an orange coloured sky,
Flash! Bam!! Alakazam!!!
Wonderful you came by.

When last did a non-Jamaican sat in Gordon House? NEVER! To PNP apologists insisting on looking at the issue as if at orange coloured skies and seeing no difference in meaning between the word “country” and the words “power” and “State” BECAUSE the latter two words aren’t defined in the Constitution:

Definitions of all English words can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary. SMH. Only where natural meanings are tweaked will you find word(s) specially defined in legislation. Ordinarily, “State” is a country’s government and “power” wider including its laws, government agencies etc;
Suppose an adult non-Jamaican swore allegiance to Canada’s laws (the oath of Canadian citizenship includes “…that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen") when the Canadian Constitution and laws are often in direct conflict with Jamaican law especially on issues of homosexuality, buggery and same-sex marriage THEN becomes MP with power to amend Jamaican laws?

FAR DOWN WICKET

What if a Jamaican citizen swears allegiance to those same Canadian laws? Isn’t he in conflict with his oath of allegiance to Jamaica “....according to the Laws of Jamaica and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Jamaica and fulfil my duties as a citizen of Jamaica”?

Can person #3 be loyal to BOTH Oaths? Can #2 be loyal to Jamaica at all?  What’ll either do if asked to debate same-sex marriage or buggery? THIS is why the Constitution’s section 39 is expressly made “subject to” section 40.  No matter how else one might qualify, the pro-active swearing of allegiance to ANY foreign laws (“power or state”) is an over-riding disqualification.

It seems PNP didn’t learn of Shane’s foreign allegiance until nomination day was upon them by which time, according to Julian “We were too far down the wicket” to change. Perhaps. But a Party intent on transparency instead of samfie would’ve asked Shane to apply for Jamaican citizenship BEFORE nomination. This would’ve achieved two important ideals namely capturing the moral high ground as best as possible and controlling the narrative. Instead, PNP chose to deceive voters and, when it “buss” PNP steadfastly pushed a technical but erroneous legal argument to try to seat a non-Jamaican in Gordon House.

PNP had TWO separate opportunities (poor vetting; no application before nomination) to do the right thing but elected expediency.  Julian Robinson and Peter Phillips are responsible for this failure of duty to Jamaica and should at the very least apologize fulsomely to all Jamaicans.

This isn’t a PNP/JLP issue. This is a Jamaican issue regarding the meaning of “foreign” to Jamaicans. Except as specifically so defined in the Constitution, why is USA “foreign” and Canada not? Why’d we allow British colonizers to force upon us acceptance that a foreigner can pass laws for Jamaicans once he/she comes from a former British Colony? C’Mon, Man, we CAN’T be so tribal that we’ll surrender national identity on the altar of party loyalty?

JLP is so far ahead of PNP in the relevance race it’s pathetic. Can PNP, as currently structured, catch up?  Not in my book. It’s time for the dinosaurs; the conflicted; the compromised; and the plain irrelevant to step aside and make way for generation next before the deficit becomes impossible to close.

William Stein and Milton Delugg wrote Nat King Cole’s seminal hit “Orange Coloured Sky” a song about magical love that comes without reason. Nat recorded the song with Stan Kenton's orchestra on August 16, 1950 making it officially timeless.

Peace and Love

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.