Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Peter’s first task - Phillip urged to rid PNP of corruption and liars

Published:Sunday | March 26, 2017 | 3:00 AMErica Virtue
Outgoing PNP President Portia Simpson Miller high-fives the man who will replace her today, Dr Peter Phillips, in a signal of the changing of the guard.
Dr Peter Phillips (centre) flanked by family members and supporters after he was nominated for the post of PNP president last February.
Dr Peter Phillips (right) and his wife Sandra Minott Phillips.

With two losses for leadership of the People's National Party (PNP) under his belt, Dr Peter David Phillips today fulfils his lifelong political dream of getting to the top of the 78-year-old party, now in opposition, but there is a warning from inside the party that 'uneasy lies the head that wears the crown'.

PNP delegates are scheduled to meet at the National Arena today to confirm Phillips as the party's fifth president, and

veteran Comrade Dean Peart has urged him to rid the party of corruption and liars as his first step.

Peart, the outspoken former minister of local government, who served as Phillips' state minister in the Ministry of Transportation and Works, wants the new PNP leader to sweep the party clean.

"The PNP needs to deal with the whole corruption matter, inside and outside of the party, seriously. Corruption is the root of what is destroying the party and the whole country. And if Dr Phillips don't deal with that one, we are going to be in a lot of problems," Peart told The Sunday Gleaner.

The former member of parliament and brother of former speaker of the House, Michael Peart, said the cleaning must be thorough.

"We need to get rid of the liars. We have a bunch of liars who are not interested in the country but in their damn selves. We need a better calibre of elected representatives. And this thing of granting favours because someone is your friend must stop.

"We must cut it out and bring in some people who have the capacity to move the country forward. Not like what we have now, because what we have now is a waste of time," added Peart.

That move to restore belief in the PNP is also at the top of the to-do list which veteran Comrade Orville 'OD' Ramtallie has created for the new president.

"Peter needs to revive the political-education programme of the PNP, because there are too many people who do not know the history of the party, and that is why they get involved into so much mischief," said Ramtallie, the now 91-year-old former MP, and who was first elected to Parliament in 1976 along with the outgoing president, Portia Simpson Miller.

According to Ramtallie, those aspiring to become representatives of the PNP and those in the system must be taught the party's proud history so they can avoid the many political pitfalls that will present themselves.

After he was nominated unopposed for the post of PNP president, Phillips had told The Sunday Gleaner that he will work relentlessly to remove the perception that the party condones corruption.

"The bedrock of integrity and the reputation of the PNP have been the exemplar of integrity in political action. The integrity of purpose, and personal integrity of its membership, that reputation has frayed in the public's mind," Phillips said during an interview last February.

"I believe ... the loss of that reputation for the PNP has undercut an essential foundation of the party, laid by N.W. Manley, and has helped to overshadow, in a bad way, the reputation of the party," added Phillips, who is expected to take over as opposition leader after Simpson Miller resigns from that post early next month.

In the meantime, trade unionist St Patrice Ennis also wants the new PNP leader to work to restore trust in the political process.

"It is of significant import that trust is restored in not only the politicians but the political process. I think everyone will agree that they are perceived as not credible and untrustworthy, not honouring their commitment to what they say. What is evident is that more and more persons have withdrawn from the political process, and that is not good for democracy," said Ennis, the general secretary of the Union of Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Personnel.

According to Ennis, good governance depends on the participation of persons, and the new PNP president, as well as the party, may wish to revisit its group structure to seek to re-engage individuals.

Ennis said Phillips should seek to pursue policies that have economic benefits for the majority of Jamaicans, as many persons had a difficulty seeing how the programmes implemented under the International Monetary Fund deal, while he was finance minister, benefited them despite the rebalancing of the Jamaican economy.

"People have to be at the forefront of decision-making of the party and whatever decision it makes as party and when it becomes government," said Ennis.