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Powerless Portia - PNP president accused of losing control of her party

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2016 | 1:00 AMGary Spaulding
Simpson Miller
PNP President Portia Simpson Miller gets a word in her ear from the now out-of-favour Raymond Pryce, who is at the centre of the latest controversy rocking the party.
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Portia Simpson Miller is the president of one of the oldest and most organised political parties in the Caribbean. Not only does she have the power to hire and fire ministers, but she also has the awesome power to determine when elections are called.

But Prime Minister Simpson Miller seems to have lost the potency she needs most to hold on to those roles. Her grip on the leadership of the People's National Party (PNP) has slipped from her grasp, or so it seems.

"The knives are drawn Julius Caesar-style," declared a psychoanalyst, who asked not to be named.

The psychoanalyst, who told our news team that she has been studying Simpson Miller's metamorphosis since 2011, argued that Simpson Miller is now in a position similar to that which faced former Prime Minister Edward Seaga in his waning days as leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

"Remember, Seaga lost control because the younger people didn't know or care. Same thing happening now," said the psychoanalyst.

"At this stage, too many factions are positioning themselves for the post-Portia era. She is very done and PJ (Patterson) is also done. That's the bigger news," said psychoanalyst.

"Her row is hard. If she calls the election now and wins, she will be challenged and forced immediately to step down. If she loses, she will be run out of town in disgrace."

Political commentator Mark Wignall agreed that persons are positioning themselves for the post-Simpson Miller era, and charged that there are tow factions at the forefront of that battle.

"I won't say who are the leaders of those factions, but if the party had a strong leader, that leader would identify these factions and crush them," Wignall told The Sunday Gleaner.

"If anyone examines the situation since 2011, they would see that Mrs Simpson Miller has lost control of the party, if she was ever in control, and with a weak secretariat as well, the party is in free fall.

"I have been following this since 1976, and this is the worst I have ever seen the PNP," added Wignall.

 

MEMBERS DISAPPOINTED

 

Inside the PNP, senior members are quietly refuting claims that Simpson Miller has lost her grip, but even they are disappointed that she has not acted more decisively against disruptive elements.

"The Comrade Leader refuses to read the Riot Act," a senior PNP member told The Sunday Gleaner last week, even as he declared that Simpson Miller continues to enjoy his support.

"Shouts of "Portia must go" by a Comrade at the party's headquarters last Monday was a new low for the first woman to lead one of the two major political parties in Jamaica.

This was painful for former parliamentarian and veteran PNP member Harry Douglas. The four-term member of parliament served under former PNP presidents Michael Manley and P.J. Patterson, and is aggrieved by what is taking place in the party at this time.

"It grieves me to see what is happening in my party that I grew up in, and had the discipline to deal with matters within the party," said Douglas.

He argued that during his active time, each person would be afforded the opportunity to defend his or her position on issues. "We disagreed, but after the discussions, that is done for the betterment of the party," said Douglas, even as he shied away from commenting on whether Simpson Miller has lost her grip on the reins of the party.

"I don't want to throw any gasolene on the fire," he chuckled. "What is clear is that things and times have changed."

And changed it has, with the open calls by Comrades for Simpson Miller to go a clear signal as to how far Simpson Miller has fallen from the heady days of 2006.

At the time, she brushed aside the challenges of Dr Peter Phillips, Dr Omar Davies and Dr Karl Blythe for the right to replace Patterson as president of the PNP.

Now many Comrades say they are disturbed, distressed and worried that Simpson Miller appears to be apathetic and distant from not only members of the party but Jamaicans in general.

Those sentiments are a carry-over from last year when political observers claimed that the hesitance, reluctance or unwillingness of Simpson Miller to communicate with the populace was the reason for more than half of Jamaicans polled wanting to see her exit the political stage.

That Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll found that 57 per cent of Jamaicans felt that Simpson Miller should not return as prime minister after the next election, while 30 per cent said the once most-popular politician in Jamaica should stay on. The remaining 13 per cent declined to proffer a preference.

The poll was done islandwide from September 25 to 27 with 1,200 residents and a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent.