Tue | Oct 15, 2019

Mark Wignall | PNP and its volcanic promise

Published:Sunday | August 18, 2019 | 12:18 AM

Party political internal elections are usually unequal parts suicide and a chance at rebirth.

There are two sides lined up in the People’s National Party (PNP). The mass of the old order, at its quite predictable position, is unmovable in its intention to fight for the retention of the status quo.

On a hill just beyond the rise is another idea made into life by those who support toppling the old order.

And so they face off, and if the tendency of any side to create its own weakness by making stupid statements is a sign of electoral vulnerability, it would seem that the One PNP campaign is against the ropes and probably taking a battering as you read this.

At which stage in all of this will the PNP be able to convince us that after the votes are counted on September 7, a few weeks from now, that same PNP will have the same electoral viability it last had on voters in this country in the lead-up years to 2016?

At stake is the rebirth or the ossification of a great movement, the PNP. The general trend is that the present leader is indicative of that part of the PNP that generates its own uselessness: a belief in loyalty over perceived or actual competence, the need to stand in a line, hold on to your numbered ticket, and let that guide your political life from here on.

Whether the age-old trend holds and Dr Phillips retains his post or Peter Bunting takes it, at the end must be a viable PNP capable of working its way back to normality.

I say that the PNP will have to work on its hands because the blows being exchanged now, especially from the side of the incumbent, Peter Phillips, will mean that both are going to be politically weaker after the contest.

The end of the PNP race will signal the beginning of the JLP pushback, not the least of which will be the purely political. For the moment, the head of the JLP, who just happens to be the prime minister, seems not to be too nervous about the internal antics of the PNP. But I am certain that his tough political side will kick in at the end of the PNP contest.

Young guns out of control?

Damion Crawford is the most popular person in the PNP. Dr Peter Phillips has never really had the personality to extend himself beyond his appeal to another abstract economic complexity that flies over our heads. So he honestly does not have that ready-made personality to reach out, to touch us, and to get into our real lives as we walk, talk, and live.

Mikael Phillips is the son of the opposition leader, and he, too, has flown off in making politically incendiary statements and been forced to apologise. And before him was Basil Waite. What is it about these youngsters on the Peter Phillips One PNP side that is driving them to become such young motormouths?

Did Mikael think this thing through and figure he could do this at a public forum and, after a contrite apology, he would be safely taken back into the fold and somehow, this would not do harm to his father’s campaign?

Now it is entirely possible that these young men – Crawford, Waite and Mikael Phillips – are impatient with the old order and believe that it is only by pointing inwards in the PNP that real change, medium-term reform and electoral magic will be addressed at the highest levels inside the party.

Could that mean that these young men could be working on the inside of the PNP as PNP patriots but firstly in covert mode to upset the old order, even if it means the loss at the next general election?

Let us get real here. If Phillips retains his post, nothing readable and realistic will change in how likely voters will be seeing the JLP in competition with the PNP. So those young men in the PNP, including Mikael, will be politically buried as they wait for the JLP to win the next election and for Peter Phillips to begin to do more for the history books instead of making waves in the near future.

Fire Brigade somewhere or anywhere?

The person wrote a few weeks after we had spoken on the phone. At times, I could sense that he was livid, but I also got it that duty meant something more than just a job to him.

“As it relates to equipment, all fire stations have a working unit, although there are issues with their reliability. Mattresses are worn and are in need of urgent replacement. In addition, there are no generators at the J and B fire stations, so once the power goes, fire personnel are left in the dark.

“As it relates to the salary scale, I do not have an actual copy on hand, but as soon as I get a copy, it will be passed on to you. As it relates to salary, though, firefighters, lance corporals, corporals and sergeants are afraid to go on vacation leave for more than 20 days as you stand to lose almost $50,000 in allowances. One loses allowances for meal, taxi and call-out. It, therefore, means that going on leave becomes a disincentive. I know of no other organisation where this happens.

“Of note is the fact that deductions taken from our salary are paid over late. Earlier this year when other contributors to the National Housing Trust (NHT) applied for their refunds, fire personnel had to wait for months as our deductions were not being paid over to the NHT.

“I must mention that from 2002, fire personnel stopped receiving overtime benefits, and a promise was made that we would not be required to do extra duties or cancellation, but this is not the case. When extra duties are done, fire personnel receive no compensation for same.

“Firefighters are the ones who have to do extra duties, and it is draining on the body and on the pocket. Please highlight the challenges being faced by us so that our concerns can be addressed.”

A few years ago when I visited Port Royal, the single fire station in the ‘one-horse town’ was proudly without a unit for the previous five years.

Police and serious intelligence work

More than a week ago, I was at a little joint along Molynes Road when a tonload of the security forces drew down right where I was – three trucks with soldiers and about seven or eight rolling stock of police vehicles comprising sedans and closed jeeps.

The police, heavily strapped and in full bulletproof outfits, fanned out. A few of them were masked, and two of the youngsters had beards. What type of policemen wear beards? Those in the intelligence section and/or undercover.

They pushed gates, entered doors, and furtively but strongly made their way through the backyards of the houses along the gully bank. Could this be a random search? In less than seven minutes, they were gone.

And then on Thursday, a policeman friend of mine said, “At this time, we are not doing random. We were acting on info. He was a ‘most wanted’ from Olympic Gardens. We picked him up in bed with a woman.”

A man who said he was nearby when they nabbed him told me that they were urging him to run, but he would not. “Why you add rubbish to the story?” I asked.

He shook his head and said, “Some stories bigger than some. And the logical ones are the truest.”

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.