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Julian in the hot seat - After years of apprenticeship Robinson ready to lead secretariat of fractured PNP

Published:Sunday | October 9, 2016 | 10:00 AMErica Virtue
Julian Robinson: “People, processes and policies - – that is how I am defining modernisation.”
PNP general secretary-designate Julian Robinson (centre) in conversation with senior party members, Dr Peter Phillips (left) and Phillip Paulwell.
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Julian Robinson will not be the colourful and provocative general secretary Donald Buchanan was. Nor is he a hotshot business magnate like Peter Bunting; the chameleon-like Colin Campbell or the stubbornly democratic Paul Burke - four of the People's National Party's (PNP) general secretaries in the last 15 years.

Even before these, the PNP had as general secretaries the cold war required Dr D.K. Duncan; the political heavy-weight Dr Peter Phillips; the calculating Dr Paul Robertson; politically astute and managerial Maxine Henry-Wilson; and the quiet and reassuring Burchell Whiteman.

Robinson, the new general secretary, brings a mixture of all these characters.

The Oxford University-educated Robinson is reasoned, non-tribal, non-controversial, technology savvy, quietly authoritative and under 50 years old. On October 27, he will assume a critical role in the 78-year-old PNP - a party with exposed political sores, requiring healing and facing local government elections.

 

Not the dream job

 

He wants to fix things in his own way and time, and bring back the shine to the party which has been floundering since its February 25 general election defeat.

"I wouldn't say it's a dream job," Robinson declared in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Gleaner.

"Coming in at this time, which is a difficult time in the evolution of the party, we have just lost an election but this is how these responsibilities go, you don't get them in perfect times. You just have to adapt and do the best and build a team of persons who will support the vision you have and work to put the party back in the state all of us want it to be."

Part of that vision is aimed at serious introspection and returning the party to its policies and core values.

"When I talk about modernisation and renewal, I define it in three ways. First and very important are the people. To me, your personnel and your leadership should reflect the population that exists as best as possible," explained Robinson.

"Second, we need to improve the processes in how we do things. Several things need improving, like building a database of all our members, with their phone numbers, emails, and so on. And whenever we are having anything, we can send emails and texts to everybody. We can send out that message to 40,000 people. We have to use technology to enhance the communication."

Robinson said he is heading back to the party's roots, and that's the third item on his agenda.

"The third thing is policies. What is it that the PNP stands for? When someone says they are a member of the PNP, what does that mean? There should be a set of values that characterises someone who says they are a member of the PNP.

"Values based on accountability and probity, as well as what it does mean philosophically to be a Comrade, and a member of the PNP. We are a democratic socialist party. What are the things we are going to stand for that are non-negotiable?" added Robinson.

He argued that a political party is defined by education, because that is the single most important vehicle to social mobility.

"People, processes and policies - that is how I am defining modernisation," he said.

Called on to author the political party's 2016 general elections autopsy report, Robinson was initially perceived as a fence sitter - not coming down on any side. That is, until his report was done. In the document, Robinson was direct and laid blame right, left and centre.

Suddenly, he was viewed in a different light, bright enough to be considered for the job of general secretary - new responsibilities that he shared will have an impact on his young family, and his equally busy banker wife, Mariamme.

"This new job is going to be more impacting on my family because you are required to be out there. If there is one thing about not being in government that makes it easier as a MP, it is that it allows me to spend time with my family. I get to spend time with my child. I take my child to school and pick him up," he explained.

The son of renowned Jamaican and international jurist Patrick Robinson, who currently sits on the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Robinson has managed to develop and maintain a reputation unsullied by corruption and rumours of corruption.

 

Financial details

 

It has endeared him in the public space, and where perception is concerned, he became the first MP to release private financial details of his wealth.

He holds a BSc in Management and Economics from the University of the West Indies, Mona. He also holds an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States. He later worked as a management and eBusiness consultant in London, at IBM, and Scient.

"This is another opportunity for me to serve. I have served the party in a number of different ways and my commitment is to serve my party and my country. I have never been preoccupied with position. I have been deputy general secretary for the last 13 years and there have been many times when I have carried the weight of the work of the secretariat during that 13-year period. I have done it. I have been a councillor candidate, MP, and I felt now was the right time to offer myself as general secretary," Robinson explained.

He continued: "I still believe the PNP is the vehicle that provides the best opportunity to fulfil dreams as a political movement. Apart from the involvement of my family, what attracted me was what Norman Manley said at the launch, that the PNP would be a class coalition, but the interest of the masses would predominant.

"So at the heart of it, your efforts and your energies must be focused on those who can least help themselves. And that is what attracts me to this movement."

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com