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Looming contests set backdrop as ... Comrades ready for second 'reasoning'

Published:Sunday | June 5, 2016 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
Dr Wykeham McNeill (left) and Lisa Hanna, two of those set to challenge for a seat at the PNP’s head table.
Persons attending the first ‘Comrades Grassroot Reasoning’ at the Jamaica Conference Centre in April.

Still struggling to deal with the shock election defeat in February, the People's National Party (PNP) will continue its internal discussions today with the second 'Comrades Grassroot Reasoning' staged by its New Foundation groups.

But with clear indications that there could be challenges for some of the party's top job this year and a heavyweight battle now under way to replace Dr Omar Davies as the PNP's leader of the prized South St Andrew constituency, today's session at the Jamaica Conference Centre could be less about reasoning and more about setting the stage for the contests.

Already Lisa Hanna and Dr Wykeham McNeill have indicated that they will be pushing to be elected among the party's four vice-presidents in a contest that should also include Angela Brown Burke, Dr Fenton Ferguson and Noel Arscott, while Peter Bunting has hinted that he could try to grab the president's chair.


Facing a challenge


Long-serving Chairman Robert Pickersgill could also face a challenge if he does not decline the nomination, and, with Paul Burke indicating that he will be walking away from the general secretary's job, that could throw up another interesting contest.

Mark Golding and Colin Campbell have already started exchanging jabs as they seek to replace Davies in a constituency the PNP has never lost, sparking speculation that this could be a proxy for the real battle which could come between Bunting and Dr Peter Phillips for the role of PNP president.

The New Foundations and New Foundations 95 groups staged the first reasoning in April with reports emerging out of the closed-door session of a cuss-out and bust-up by Comrades as they apportioned blame for the loss of an election which the party was certain it would win, and marked the first time that the PNP was rejected by the majority of voters after only one term.

But the organisers claimed that with more than 200 participants and 62 interventions the reasoning was a success.

"We are satisfied that contributions and discussions took place in a civil atmosphere of constructive criticisms and without any antagonism. These are the facts, notwithstanding any distorted impressions that may have been created in any sections of the media," said the organisers in their review of the event.

"As was expected, there was some brutal and honest criticism and also helpful corrections and clarifications by some resource persons, such as Comrade D.K. Duncan, during the reasoning, this, so as to establish facts and context," added the leaders of the groups, including Brown Burke, who was the spokesperson.


Important testimonies


The organisers said they welcome this type of discussion as, "Comrades' own truths and experiences, real or imagined, true or false, are important testimonies to be aired so as to have an understanding of the feelings and issues as a first step in resolving such issues and, hopefully, to reach consensus, the desired objective."

They added: "Comrades, therefore, spoke to either their personal beliefs or to the beliefs of other Comrades and to the adherence of, or departure from the party's core principles of democracy, social justice equity, egalitarianism and economic empowerment with the aim of clarifying, reiterating and strengthening understanding of the party's objectives and values."

This time around, the reasoning has been dubbed 'Going forward ... what is to be done', with sub-themes, 'Strengthening the People's National Party/serving the best interest of the Jamaican People'.

According to the East Kingston and Port Royal-based groups, invited presenters include Phillips, Dr D.K. Duncan, Burke, and the regional leaders, Hanna, Morais Guy, Phillip Paulwell, Denise Daley, MiKael Phillips and Ian Hayles.