Sat | Mar 17, 2018

Portia, Paul, Peter and Phillip - Pressure on the Ps

Published:Sunday | March 6, 2016 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
Portia Simpson Miller
Dr Peter Phillips
Phillip Paulwell
People's National Party General Secretary Paul Burke

While, publicly, members of the People's National Party (PNP) are refusing to ascribe blame for the defeat in the just-concluded general election, privately, it appears that the proverbial 'long knives' have been drawn and they are aimed mainly at four senior members who were at the helm of the campaign loss.

Party president, former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, campaign director Dr Peter Phillips, General Secretary Paul Burke and chairman of the party's powerful Region Three, Phillip Paulwell - the four Ps - are the ones facing the brunt of the discontent.

Last week, some Comrades spoke to The Sunday Gleaner outlining what they believe were the roles played by the Ps in the PNP's defeat, even before the party begins its formal review of the campaign.


The one-time darling of the PNP had obviously lost some of her 'mojo' in the lead-up to the election, with all the polls showing her favourability rating at an all-time low, but that was expected to be erased once 'Mama P' hit the streets.

But the bounce never came and her handling of the timing of the poll is what has galled many Comrades.

"When the prime minister announced that she would name the date after her 'master's touch,' that was the signal that we were in real trouble," one disgruntled Comrade told The Sunday Gleaner.

"If we had gone in September, October, November, the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) would not have even a little chance, and even when we mishandled the dead babies issue we could still have gone early December and made it home," added the Comrade.

While they are not saying it publicly, and few would have the nerve to challenge her leadership openly, the fact that Simpson Miller has entered the history books as the first Jamaican prime minister to call two general elections and lose them both is a signal to many Comrades that it is time for her to go.

"Nobody can't push out Portia after all she has given to the PNP, but I hope as soon as we settle down and complete the review she will signal a timetable for her departure and we can start to plan a smooth, or even if it is not smooth, a change that will leave the structure of the party intact," said the veteran PNP member.


He knows they are coming after him, and his letter to the Comrades, which was leaked to the media late last week, all but confirmed that.

"If the party wants a scapegoat, if it makes us feel happy, then blame me ... but it will not be the truth nor the facts, and by this self- and mass deception, we will not fix the problems," Paul Burke told party insiders.

"As I accept final responsibility for the organisation of the PNP ... if it makes some happy, I am also willing to take full and complete responsibility," added Burke, as he said he was prepared to pay the price for the electoral defeat.

"Then him nuh must pay the price," charged one Comrade. "The secretariat was disjointed, inefficient and inept, and the man at the helm has to take all the blame," added the Comrade.

According to senior party insiders, the fact that the general secretary seemed so unaware that so many sitting members of parliament were disliked by so many people in their constituencies was a clear indicator that the secretariat was not working.

"And that affected the timing of the election. The work of the secretariat is to have the party machinery at a level that the PM can call election at anytime. But with the infighting in so many constituencies, once Portia signalled the election she had no option but to delay, and Paul must take full blame for that."

The general secretary will also have to explain how many of the more than 30,000 persons added to the voters' list were identified and targeted by the PNP.


Former JLP leader Bruce Golding described this PNP campaign as the worst he has seen since 1972, and he must know, having been given a political backsiding by the PNP in all elections since then, but for 1980 and 2007.

For that, the man named the campaign director, Dr Peter Phillips, is getting the brickbats.

Phillips entered that campaign with his stocks high in the party for his role in steering Jamaica's economy through perilous waters over the past four years, and the local and international acclaim that he had achieved.

So confident was he that he signalled the general election months before the then prime minister, and made it clear that the party's campaign would be on its achievements since 2011 and the promise of good times to come.

"But Peter offered nothing to the little man who had been suffering for the past four years, and if all you could tell him was that there was more of the same then why should he vote PNP," declared a party insider.

"Where was the payday that a Comrade could look for? There was not even an offer to counter that foolishness that the JLP came wid about $18,000 more on your pay with the $1.5 million income tax threshold.

"All we were saying was that it could not work but Peter, the financial genius, could not come up with a little package to say to a man, when we win you are going to get this by April," added the Comrade.

That echoed a claim by political analyst Dr Paul Ashley who last week charged that this idea of passing IMF tests was not enough to catch the attention of the voting base.

"So what happen if I over-pass the test, or what happens if we fail the test and is all we doing about passing the tests," quipped Ashley at a Gleaner Editors' Forum, as he charged that there was enough blame to go around for the PNP's defeat.


While he did not figure prominently in the campaign team, Phillip Paulwell is coming in for strong criticisms from some Comrades who see his hands in the instability in some constituencies in the lead-up to the election.

"What happened is that many did believe that all we had to do was have Portia sound the trumpet and we would win. Then she would leave in two to three years and a replacement elected.

"So what we had is those backing Paulwell to be the next party president had to ensure that anybody who might oppose him was taken out from now," charged a PNP source.

According to the source, independent thinkers, including Raymond Pryce and Lisa Hanna, were targeted as they control organised constituencies with a large number of delegates and persons were not sure who they would line up behind in the next leadership race.

"Neither Raymond nor Lisa has said who they would support, so because of that persons no trust them. Even Damion (Crawford) - even though him shoot himself in him foot - them did want him out because nobody could just say to him back Phillip or anybody else because him is a thinker," added the source.

"So even though Phillip never did mek some of the bad decisions his shadow is all over this defeat."