Mon | Jan 25, 2021

Mark Wignall | Who carried you wide, Dr Phillips?

Published:Sunday | November 24, 2019 | 12:00 AM

On a day last week when the opposition leader’s point man on agriculture, Victor Wright, was thrown to the dogs, he was on Nationwide Radio struggling and stumbling to explain what was supposed to be another scandal under the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) watch.

This time, it was supposed to be massive hanky-panky at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).

His leader, Dr Peter Phillips, had made a grand announcement in which, according to his findings, major overspending and other irregularities had taken place in one of the main agencies of the agriculture ministry. The week before, the opposition leader’s grand ‘exposé’, had signalled that he had info on a pending scandal brewing in the JLP administration.

So far, it seems to have been a nothing burger, and at one stage when poor Mr Wright was on radio seemingly grabbing at the nearest angle he could introduce, I found myself rooting for him, the David, even as it became obvious that Goliath as his nemesis had been scripted by Dr Phillips. I actually wanted Mr Wright to be right on something, anything.

Nothing in what the People’s National Party (PNP) was trying to put forward was holding up. Let us bear in mind that from the moment that Dr Phillips teased the nation about a brewing scandal and the date he actually made the announcement would have been more than sufficient time to double check and ensure that the info he eventually presented was authentic.

Apparently none of that was done, and Mr Wright was sent as a sacrificial lamb and given duties to unspill the milk. One of my PNP contacts who had supported Peter Bunting in the not-so-recent PNP leadership contest told me last week, “Mark, there is turmoil in the party over the RADA blunder. Philips, with all the experience, made a judgement call to run to the press, guided by a political lightweight, Victor Wright, or should I say Victor wrong, who might not even win back his constituency in Trelawny.”

“But surely, as you say, Phillips is experienced, and as far as I know, no one doubts his intellectual chops? In the late 1970s and in the months leading up to the October 1980 elections, on a regular, perfectly timed basis, then leader of the Opposition, Eddie Seaga, would wave around documents coming from inside the vitals of an embattled PNP administration,” I reasoned.

“These purloined documents had to have the stamp of authenticity before Seaga would introduce them. So, what is happening here with your leader?”

He responded, “I believe it is political desperation. I haven’t seen any polls, but I would not be surprised if Phillips is occupying the same popularity profile as existed before the contest. Plain desperation is at work. Can’t find no other explanation.”

“So, how are people inside the PNP, in the hierarchy and at the constituency level, dealing with it?” I asked.

“The majority of persons in the party are very upset. Comrades want him to succeed, but it’s not happening. Phillips cried wolf, and there was no wolf. Not even a baby wolf disguised as a dog showed up. How can we ever go to the public now and be credible?” he said.

“What does Dr Phillips do now to gain any public trust or prove to even his faction that he can cross that bridge to credibility?”


Someone inside the PNP Shadow Cabinet or one of Peter Phillips’ advisers should have suggested that he take a swipe at the PM for hurling a dull barb at the press last Sunday as he addressed true believers at a constituency conference.

“I was just listening to the news before I came here, and you know the news report is the news report. I make no comment on the opinions proffered by journalists because that is the freedom of the society. They can take whatever stance they want to take because it’s free media. It doesn’t have to be the truth. It doesn’t have to relate to the facts because it is their opinion,” he noted.

“What you have to understand, as persons consuming the news, is that not all the things that are presented to you are the facts or are the truth.”

I cannot categorically state that the PM is wrong on this, but I would have preferred if the prime minister had given a specific instance where the truth (about him or his party or government policy) was mangled.

Surely, there must be something in that, that a politically desperate opposition leader could find to politically diminish Andrew Holness. Would it have made sense if Peter Phillips had drawn a comparison to Donald Trump, the present occupant of the White House? At the very least, there would have been no criticism that Peter Phillips was crying wolf.

“In the months leading up to the next elections, which I believe will be held mid next year, Dr Phillips will need a full PNP team in the campaign,” said another person who had supported Bunting in the recent contest.

“Right now, what he has is a second eleven.”

Dr Phillips is a strong-willed man, and the extent to which he believes his word to his supporters is his political bond, he may find himself hemmed in should he want to embark on any reversal of what he did after the contest. That is, sidelining those from the Bunting faction.

In that, he may believe that he lives and dies by his words. The question is: how does such a man like Dr Peter Phillips claw his way back to new possibilities of himself when his very rigidity is the factor holding him from propelling himself forward?

There is much that lies on the shoulders of he who was once the de facto prime minister during the time when Portia Simpson Miller held the lofty office. Phillips needs to prove to all within his party that he can make his way to Jamaica House on his terms. I am certain that in his mind, he would like to tell the people of Jamaica that he has a last hurrah in him.

Does he really?


As I have previously stated in various articles, Father Sean C. Major-Campbell is the most progressive clergyman in Jamaica. Immediately after young Mr Waldane Walker, valedictorian of the 2019 class at Edna Manley, ended his excellent presentation with a controversial, “Big up onnu BC self,” Father Major-Campbell shared his Facebook post on the matter.

“It is reasonable to recognise that such creatively powerful yet non-violent resistance might indeed deserve some regard in a context with creatives who live beyond the horizon and know that messages are conveyed in varied ways. This BC may have been very loaded, representing the burdens of meeting financial obligations, assignment deadlines, institutional challenges, etc. It is so good that this was, however, not an occasion of cursing anyone, in which case, this may not be deemed abusive and calumnious language,” he posted.

I have been trying to make that very point to well-meaning people who believe that young Mr Walker should still have ‘toed the social line’ and behaved himself.

People can be quite uncivil with each other without even using a Jamaican cuss word while others can be relaxed and civil in a liberal smash of ‘bad wud’.

Someone asked me on radio recently, “What about the children? What must they think?”

To that I say, just as how our patwa is the language of the streets, so is RC and BC and all the other @!!**. It is the parents who must place this into context. One choice is to lock up the child in a cave in the hope that only all things deemed moral and ethical by some hypocritical police state is all that the child hears and sees.

Expose the child and explain it to the child.

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to and