Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Portia M.I.A.! Lack of leadership from Simpson Miller listed among main reasons for problems in the PNP

Published:Sunday | September 13, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
People’s National Party Chairman Robert Pickersgill (centre) flanked by (from left) General Secretary Paul Burke and vice-presidents Noel Arscott, Dr Angela Brown Burke and Derrick Kellier at the launch of the party’s 77th annual conference last week.
People's National Party (PNP) supporters in a festive mood at a recent constituency meeting.
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Charging that a lack of leadership is evident at the top level of the People's National Party (PNP), some political analysts are urging the party's president, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, to take strong and decisive action before healthy rivalry for positions becomes a millstone which drags down the party.

The analysts say the party's leadership must step in and quell seeds of discord going into its 77th annual conference this weekend.

According to outspoken political commentator Richard 'Dickie' Crawford, every head of every corporation has a responsibility to lead, and it is no different in a political party.

"I can understand if the party leader, Portia Simpson Miller, does not want to step in and it is interpreted that she favours any one over the other. But the silence and absence of the party's chairman (Robert 'Bobby' Pickersgill) is amazing.

"Pickersgill should be directing the course to make sure that the democratic processes and standards are upheld," said Crawford.

He argued that the PNP must be aware that divisions have done nothing but hurt its prospects in recent times.

"Look what happened to the party during the leadership contest. It was bitter and ugly. So the party leader has an obligation and a right to lead and to make sure that the democratic processes are observed and upheld.

"Where there is no direction from the top, you have the mess that the party is now dealing with."

According to Crawford, it is clear that there is a vacuum between the current leadership of the PNP and its younger members, who are articulate and outspoken.

He expressed concern that these young Comrades are not being given the guidance they need to avoid some of their pitfalls.

 

CHALLENGES TWOFOLD

 

Another political commentator, Kevin O'Brien Chang, told The Sunday Gleaner that the situation, in some constituencies, must be regarded twofold.

"In one instance, it is part of a healthy democratic process, which must be celebrated. It's democracy at work, and as long as it remains non-violent, it must be seen as part of the democratic process.

"However, on the other hand, it shows a party whose leadership is out of touch with what is happening on the ground," said O'Brien Chang.

According to O'Brien Chang, in the case of St Elizabeth North East, where some delegates are dead set against the leadership of incumbent Raymond Pryce, some amount of arrogance is at play, and that has no part in politics.

"Portia should step in. Not in the sense of a dictatorship move, but step in and provide the leadership that is needed. For clearly, the mess that has been created is because of the absence of leadership.

"But make no mistake, the democracy is healthy and the people at the grass-roots level should not be denied the right to make their political choices," added O'Brien Chang.

However, senior lecturer in political psychology in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies, Christopher Charles, is not worried that the challenges will impact the PNP.

According to Charles, it is healthy for the PNP that sitting MPs are being challenged.

"The grass roots is saying that 'We should have the right to choose our representatives'. In that case, the MPs are forced to do better because they will see themselves as accountable to the people and they know they can be removed if the people are dissatisfied. Furthermore, they can be removed even before an election," said Charles.

"The party leadership does not need to do anything. The democratic process must be allowed, and as long as they are guided by the constitutions of the party and the land, then I do not see any problems," added Charles.

The leadership of the PNP reportedly met in an emergency session last Friday to discuss the bitter battles among aspirants to represent it in the next general election, but so far, there has been no word on what was decided during the meeting.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com