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Comrade confusion - Uncertainty grips PNP as internal races get under way

Published:Wednesday | July 13, 2016 | 7:00 AMArthur Hall
Paul Burke
Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller and Peter Bunting
Angela Brown Burke
Dr Fenton Ferguson
Dr Wykeham McNeill
Lisa Hanna
Noel Arscott
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The convulsions inside the People's National Party (PNP) since its surprise electoral defeat in February could worsen this week as more uncertainty hits the party with the opening of the period for nominees to contest for the posts of president and four vice-presidents.

Nominations for the five posts open today and close at midday next Wednesday, but the PNP will not be sure of the nominees until election time in September because there is nothing in its constitution to prevent a late nomination from the floor of its annual conference.

Faced with that possibility, the party's National Executive Council (NEC) has passed a resolution for the July 20 deadline for nominations, but PNP General Secretary Paul Burke yesterday acknowledged that this could be rejected by delegates at the conference, opening the way for late entrants into the contests.

"The NEC has approved a nomination period and there is a resolution carried by the NEC to accept those nominations and those nominations only. Conference can accept that resolution or reject that resolution," said Burke.

"This has come about because we have not dealt with the amendment of the party's constitution as timely as we should have. So from 2006 and again in 2008, these amendments have been before the PNP, but conferences are so pressed sometimes that we have not addressed the amendments.

"And a set nomination time is one of the amendments being proposed but has not yet been approved," added Burke.

The PNP general secretary agreed that this was an issue the PNP should have addressed since 2003 when the change to a fixed nomination period was first proposed, leaving the party in a tricky situation at this time.

"What will happen now is that the resolution will be put to the conference floor, that is, the delegates, and if the conference accepts the nominations that are submitted now will hold. If the conference does not accept it, the conference can decide to reopen the nomination," said Burke, who once threw the PNP in a tailspin when he was nominated from the floor for one of the party's vice-president slots.

 

SPECIAL VOTE

 

The PNP was forced to call a special vote for its four vice-presidents after Burke spoilt the expected celebratory return of Portia Simpson Miller, Dr Peter Phillips, Dr Karl Blythe and Paul Robertson as the vice-presidents at the party's 66th annual conference.

This time around, it is Burke who heads the secretariat and is expected to referee a contest between Simpson Miller and Peter Bunting for the party's top job.

Sitting vice-presidents Angela Brown Burke, Dr Fenton Ferguson and Noel Arscott are expected to be joined by Lisa Hanna and Dr Wykeham McNeill on the ballot for the four vice-president posts.

But with the PNP's constitution allowing any paid-up member who is endorsed by 10 other paid-up members to be nominated, Burke is not trying to guess who will be on the ballots.

"I'm waiting until midday on Wednesday, the 20th of July to know who has been nominated and not to speculate," he said.

But even then Burke will not be sure until the delegates at conference say if they will block any other nominee.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com