Phillips declares hand - Former challenger receives ringing endorsement to succeed Portia when she chooses to leave
Even before Dr Peter Phillips declared his intention to challenge for the leadership of the People's National Party (PNP) when Portia Simpson Miller steps down, delegates including some members of parliament (MPs) attending his constituency conference on Sunday night made a platform promise to support him when the time comes.
Phillips, during his time behind the microphone at the public session of his
St Andrew East Central constituency conference at Jacisera Park, told hundreds of supporters - some of whom are also delegates - that he will be offering himself as a candidate to succeed Simpson Miller, at the appropriate time.
"Whenever the party leader decides and the party decides, and there is a transition to take place, I intend, by the grace of God, to offer myself," Phillips told the audience.
Continuing, he said: "With no disrespect to anyone and none to the party leader, I know that a time will come when a transition will take place. I believe in orderly transition. That is why my name is not on any ballot this September. There was never any intention for my name to be on any ballot this September because I believe in the protection of the party."
He said that, for whatever time he has remaining in public life, with the support of the delegates of the PNP, he intended to commit to the restoration of the values of the party.
Phillips said Jamaica needed a strong PNP to advance and keep alive the legitimate dreams of the Jamaican people.
However, even before Phillips's declaration, Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Dayton Campbell, who is chairman of the party's Region One, made it clear that he would support Phillips when the time comes.
Addressing current Party President Portia Simpson Miller, he said: "Comrade Leader, fi mi madda. And nobody can throw out fi mi madda out a fi har yard. A dat mi want dem know. Respect due."
Turning to Phillips, he said: "You say nuff a dem nuh waan see Mama P siddung beside Dr Phillips. It a bun dem. But Comrade Portia is my leader and she going remain my leader because I talk with delegates back a dat. Mi nuh just run off my mouth ... . And when Mama P say she done, a him mi a support. Mi nuh business weh nobody else a duh. A him mi a support when Mama say she done."
Campbell, who was the guest speaker, received loud endorsements for his utterances.
Some of those in the audience also stated clearly that it is was Phillips' time now.
Has son's support
Phillips' son, Mikael, the MP for Manchester North East, said he, too, would be supporting his father.
"... So Comrades, when we leave here tonight, is one message and one leader until that comes. And all who feel say ... and you see what that time comes ... if my father is interested, is only one place me going. Is with Peter Phillips. And until the party leader says her time comes I am with her," stated the younger Phillips.
The older Phillips would have his hands full trying to build back confidence and respectability in the party, given the fallout from the rift now rocking it over allegations and counter-allegations of the theft, campaign-finance funds.
Fingers have been pointed at at least five senior officials who have been accused of siphoning off the bulk of the campaign donations. General Secretary Paul Burke and Dr Omar Davies have squared off in public over the allegations with Davies issuing a statement, through the office of Peter Bunting, blasting the general secretary.
Burke has not publicly accused Davies of any wrongdoing.
The younger Phillips, however, addressed the issue.
"Comrades, the PNP that we have now is not the PNP we know. The PNP we know, we are going to take it back and bring it to what the people of Jamaica expect of us ... . In 2006, when Comrade Portia beat his backside, and 2008 she lick him again, but Comrades, no matter how bruising it was, the two of them put the PNP ahead of themselves and built a party that made us government in 2011," said the younger Phillips.
"So when I see us turning on each other it pains my heart ...," he said.