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Peter’s ‘long service award’? - Phillips rejects claims that PNP crown would be a reward for years of dedication to the party

Published:Sunday | December 18, 2016 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue

Dr Peter David Phillips, who appears set to be crowned president of the People's National Party (PNP) when Portia Simpson Miller walks away from the post, has scoffed at claims that Comrades are giving him a long-service award.

Phillips, who has risen through the ranks of the party from group member, remains the only person to declare that they will enter the race when Simpson Miller goes, leading to speculation that other party members have decided to reward him for 'long and faithful service'.

The speculation intensified after Peter Bunting, who was expected to be nominated for the post, announced that he would not be going forward and would instead back Phillips.

Last week, Phillips told The Sunday Gleaner that he is prepared for a challenge and the absence of a contest would be negative and positive.

"I believe that one has to be prepared for any eventuality. So I am prepared for a contest. Let me say that I had no discussion with Peter Bunting on his decision, and it's a decision I respect.

"A contest helps to mobilise the party base, but the downside is that it creates divisions and disunity, for which we have paid dearly in the party," said Phillips.

The PNP powerhouse rejected claims that the party presidency would be payment for his service to the party over the years.

"The presidency of the PNP is an essential part of the nation's inheritance and it's important to pursue what it stands for. The PNP also has a record of a solid internal democracy and a legacy of commitment to the upliftment of the ordinary Jamaican

people. I am proud to be part

of that," said Phillips as he chronicled his years in the party.

"I have worked all my adult life in the PNP. I have PNP antecedents as my grandfather was a councillor in the Bellefield division in Manchester and my father was influenced by his father as well. I have served in four ministries in Jamaica, and I have done well, albeit not without some problems.

"I mean, everything was not perfect. But this is not long-service award, it's about quality service," he said during the interview.

Phillips has served as minister of transportation and works; health; national security; and finance.

He told our news team that if he gets the PNP's top job, his first order of business will be moving to heal any wounds that might exist.

"Then seek to clarify the vision of the party to those who aspire to be part of the movement and part of its leadership, and finally, guarantee and provide the mechanisms that the PNP will always maintain the highest standards of integrity in public life," said Phillips.

University lecturer Dr Christopher Charles is among those who believes Phillips' coronation will be a long-service award. But Charles argued that it is an award that is deserved.

"The PNP's philosophy is that you have to do your time, and 'do road' for the party. He has done that. But he is considered a star performer and has done well in all the ministries he has headed," Charles told The Sunday Gleaner.

According to Charles, Phillips has national respect, especially for his accomplishments as finance minister, and "he has lots of respect in the party for the length of time he has served".

Phillips' competence

But Dr Carol Archer, associate professor at the University of Technology, said Phillips' competence is not to be questioned and his rise to the PNP's top job is well deserved.

"Peter Phillips and I go way back in the 1980s when I was a graduate student studying in New York and he was pursuing doctoral studies there. He was one of the early students of Professor Emmanuel Wallerstein, who is best known for his World-System Theory.

"Dr Phillips was very, very helpful to me, and when I completed my studies, I worked at the Ministry of Transport where he was minister," Archer told The Sunday Gleaner.

"His decisions are always informed by empirical evidence, and not conjecture or emotions. From the days of our studies, our relationship has always been a very heady one. He does not make decisions on a whim," added Archer, who unsuccessfully contested St Andrew West Rural constituency in 2002 on a PNP ticket.

"At this time, I think he is absolutely the right person for the job. This is not a long-service award, but he has paid his dues, not only serving on party commissions, but also as general secretary," said Archer.