Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Peter seeks unity - Promises Comrade-style celebrations, discussions for March 26 conference

Published:Saturday | February 11, 2017 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
Dr Peter Phillips hugs one of the scores of Comrades who turned out for his nomination at the People's National Party Headquarters on Hope Road in Kingston on Wednesday.
Comrades greeting their soon-to-be-leader, Dr Peter Phillips.
Dr Peter Phillips greets his supporters at the People’s National Patry headquarters on Hope Road in Kingston, on Wednesday.
Venesha Phillips (left), Peter Phillips (centre), and Lisa Hanna, before Phillips submitted his application on Wednesday.

Dr Peter Phillips is promising fireworks at a special delegates' conference on March 26, when it is expected that delegates of the People's National Party (PNP) will, by affirmation, make him the fifth president of the 78-year-old party.

"I expect that on March 26, when Comrades come out, we will have a lively discussion, as we have always have done, and they will come out to reaffirm who they have chosen [to be their president]. I expect a big crowd turnout from Comrades all over the island in true Comrade-like atmosphere as we always do ... and we can celebrate in a Comrade-like manner also," he said, adding that lifting the spirit of Comrades was important.

Phillips, backed by scores of party supporters and senior party officers, was on Wednesday nominated for a third time for the powerful post of president.

Before, he twice suffered defeat at the hands of outgoing president Portia Simpson Miller.

But at the close of nomination on Wednesday, he stood as the only nominee for the post, effectively making him PNP president-designate.

Speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, Phillips said that next month's conference "... is an opportunity to vote and affirm the choice that they have made and for us to have a dialogue about going forward".

Having previously occupied several other posts within the hierarchy of the PNP, including that of general secretary, Phillips said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the party faithful for him to become president.

"I am deeply humbled and moved by the demonstration of confidence that has been provided by Comrades across the length and breadth of Jamaica," Phillips declared yesterday in reaction to the development.

With the PNP rocked by controversy and disunity in the past year following a shocking election defeat last year, and Comrades convinced that Simpson Miller was being pushed out of the president's chair, Phillips said among his top priority after the confirmation next month will be strengthening the unity within the party.

He also wants to focus on the party's commitment to social inclusion and national development.

... Oh for a more socially inclusive society

"We want to focus our objectives on getting a more socially inclusive society, modernising the economy, and bringing the people who are marginalised in the society into the mainstream," said Peter Phillips, who served as finance minister under the second dispensation of the Portia Simpson Miller administration.

He suggested that his ascent to the helm of the PNP would create a new dynamic and a sense of national purpose within the factious party.

Phillips is adamant that he intends to remain true to the focus and mission of the PNP which, he argued, have always been about the upliftment of the masses.

"The PNP has always been about egalitarianism, modernisation of our country, and the upliftment of the people by bring them to a position where they can enjoy all the benefits of modern life ... . That remains our commitment and we will continue to do that," he said.

Phillips, in the meantime, paid tribute to Simpson Miller, who, he said, has "served her country with dedication, strength, determination and courage during her years of leadership."

Simpson Miller was under immense pressure from powerful forces within the party to resign to allow for new leadership and direction.