'The PNP needs you' - Phillips eyes youth vote, warns against cynicism
Receiving the proverbial baton from his predecessor Portia Simpson Miller, new president of the People's National Party (PNP), Dr Peter Phillips yesterday wasted no time in wooing young Jamaicans to become members of the party and to help in the party's efforts to regain state power and rebuild the country.
Declared president of the PNP by acclamation at a special delegates' conference held at the National Arena in Kingston, Phillips called for "all hands on deck" to fulfill the party's mission for the country.
Singling out young people, Phillips said: "The PNP needs you the youth to be a part of that shaping of our vision, to be part of the shaping of the future and we need for you to come and help us shape the programmes and policies that would help move this country forward".
Using the biblical injunction 'we call upon the youth because you are strong', Phillips said, "we need your energy, we need the idealism and we need your courage".
He challenged young people not to fall prey to cynicism and to be influenced by those who have nothing good to say about the country. "We have not been perfect as a country, but it is the only one we have," he stressed.
The 67-year-old leader argued that no country could make significant strides if young people were disengaged from the political process.
With 21 years under his belt as member of parliament, the man who diligently sought his crowning moment as party president also said there was the need for new blood in the party even as he extended an invitation to students, farmers, taxi men, workers among others.
Signalling that the party will pay particular attention to removing poverty and inequality under his leadership, Phillips said a new PNP government would take steps to end the problem of squatting by getting land in the hands of the landless.
"Government can't have land locked-up when our people can't find a place to build a home for their families," said Phillips, adding that a new PNP administration would undertake "the most ambitious land titling project ever".
Currently, an estimated 700,000 Jamaicans live as squatters.
The PNP president said he will shortly be naming a committee to begin work to create a new legal framework for rationalising the more than 100 pieces of legislation which currently impact directly or indirectly land ownership and use.
His biggest political moment
Earlier, before Phillips addressed the large gathering of party supporters, he took the Oath of Office while being flanked by former PNP presidents, Portia Simpson Miller and P.J. Patterson.
In his biggest political moment to date, Phillips, who challenged Simpson Miller twice for the leadership of the party and was beaten, said: "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."
He paid tribute to both Simpson Miller and Patterson for their contributions to the 78-year-old party.
Commenting on party unity, Phillips reasoned that his rise to the presidency by acclamation was a signal from PNP delegates and supporters that they placed a high priority on preserving and enhancing the unity and strength of the PNP.
"When we are united, there is no force that can stop us from winning elections, and thereby positively transform Jamaica and improve the lives of the Jamaican people," he declared.
Phillips first entered Gordon House as a Senator in 1989. He later stepped down to the lower house after scoring victory in the 1997 General Elections for the St Andrew East Central seat, a constituency he continues to represent.
Retracing his political history, Phillips said he was unapologetic in stating that his political baptism into the PNP was during the early leadership of former party leader Michael Manley.
Peter articulates PNP's vision
Our vision is of a Jamaica that works for all the people
- A Jamaica where no child will be left behind in the race of life because of inadequate education.
- A Jamaica in which no Jamaican citizen will be a squatter in the land of their birth.
- A Jamaica where every Jamaican will have access to affordable, modern housing.
- The Jamaica, which we seek to build, is a land where peace will reign, families will prosper and communities will live in harmony.
- Our women will be protected, and treated with respect and enjoy equal rights.
- Our children will be treasured and nurtured as the bright lights of our national future, and will not to be abused and brutalised.