Replacing Portia - Aspirants Paulwell, Hylton still eyeing PNP throne despite poor showing in polls
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
Despite not figuring in the latest public-opinion poll as a possible replacement for Portia Simpson Miller as the president of the People's National Party (PNP), Phillip Paulwell and Anthony Hylton continue to eye the post, even as they note that there is no vacancy at this time.
Paulwell and Hylton have long been identified as possible leaders of the party, but in a recent Gleaner-commissioned poll, neither figured significantly when the public was asked who should replace Simpson Miller.
But the 57-year-old Hylton, who now serves as minister of industry, investment and commerce, told The Sunday Gleaner that the poll showing was expected, midway through the term, especially in a difficult economy.
"Once the party is reflected badly, for want of a better word, in the polls, undoubtedly, it will in some way filter to individuals. But we continue to make valuable contributions as we govern," said Hylton, who was tasked with providing leadership to the Progressive Agenda - the policy document reflecting the PNP's philosophy on a new approach to governance while it was in Opposition.
"It's a process, but whatever happens, I am confident that I am making a contribution to national life. So we learn as we go along," added Hylton, who received a boost last week with news that Jamaica has jumped 36 places to No. 58 in the world, and the leader in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as countries with an ease of doing business.
The 52-year-old Paulwell, who trailed Dr Peter Phillips, Lisa Hanna, Damion Crawford, Peter Bunting and Dr Omar Davies in the poll conducted in September, has long been seen as the heir apparent to the 68-year-old Simpson Miller.
FOCUSING ON PORTFOLIO
But reverses in the energy sector, which he leads, has tarnished his reputation even as he argues that "right now, I am concentrating on being the best minister of science, technology, energy and mining in Jamaica".
According to Paulwell, people are not pressed with the issue of heir apparent at this time.
"The truth is there is no vacancy for leader in the PNP right now. Until then, I don't think the question would be dealt with with the seriousness it deserves.
"So that is not even something I am looking at. I want to build a portfolio as the best minister in this area that Jamaica has," declared Paulwell.
"If the time comes, there will be enough solid achievements on which to stage a challenge," added Paulwell, who continues to build his political stocks in the party from his base as chairman of the powerful Region Three, which covers the 15 Corporate Area constituencies.
"Despite the issue in relation to energy, we are having, by the end of next year, US$200 million worth of renewable investment in the sector - two large wind projects and one solar project, which will make Jamaica the leading Caribbean country in terms of renewable energy.
"We are seeing tremendous achievement in terms of energy conservation and efficiency," boasted Paulwell.
He argued that the demand for energy from the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) may have fallen by as much as 40 megawatts, because of efforts being made to move individuals to renewables.
Paulwell added that he has granted nearly 200 licences for net billing and for persons to be paid by the JPS for excess energy that is sold to the national grid.
"That is a significant achieve-ment; it has never happened before. So on the energy side, we didn't achieve the large-scale thing, but I am convinced that the insistence on Energy World International (EWI) has paid off, because all those being considered now will come below EWI's price of 12.88 US cents per kilowatt-hour."
Paulwell declared that he is the longest-serving telecoms minister in the world.
"Notwithstanding the 2007-2012 period, when I go to the international conferences, they seek me out because that is 13 years now."
- Replacing Portia
If Portia Simpson Miller decides to retire from politics or resign from office, who do you think should lead the People's National Party?
- Peter Phillips 16% 23%
- Lisa Hanna 6% 10%
- Damion Crawford 4% 4%
- Peter Bunting 3% 5%
- Omar Davies 2% 1%
- Philip Paulwell 2%3%
Total percentage of all respondents in support.
Percentage of PNP supporters in support.