Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Comrades weep! - Curtains come down on Phillips’ presidency; Jackson to transition PNP into new leadership

Published:Saturday | September 5, 2020 | 12:19 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
A party supporter puts her head on the shoulder of People’s National Party president, Dr Peter Phillips, while crying, on his arrival at the PNP headquarters, for a press conference to announce his resignation as party president and Opposition leader after losing the general election.

In agony, precipitated by a massive defeat at the polls on Thursday, People’s National Party (PNP) faithfuls who gathered at the party’s headquarters in St Andrew insisted that the losers who had orchestrated the leadership troubles of the party must have nothing to do with its rebuilding.

The PNP was dealt a huge blow when several of the party’s lieutenants were battered and uprooted from their respective strongholds.

At the end of the night, the PNP lost 15 of the 29 seats it previously held, translating into a 49-seat majority for the Jamaica Labour Party.

Some loyal Comrades wept openly yesterday as the sting of defeat pierced farther into their already broken hearts.

Yesterday, Dr Peter Phillips, the man who now wears the unenviable title of being the only PNP president not to become head of Government, announced that he had initiated steps to bring the curtains down on his term as president of the PNP.

With top-tier leadership of the campaign by his side, Phillips said he took full responsibility for the loss.

“I have written to the chairman of the party to ask that the National Executive Council and the executive of the party make the necessary arrangements as soon as is practicable to elect a new leader of the party,” Phillips stated yesterday, dressed down and out of party colours.

The PNP usually has its annual conference in September, but with restrictions on gatherings and COVID-19 spreading rapidly, Phillips was unable to say exactly how a new president would be chosen.

“I intend, until a new leader is elected to exercise all the responsibilities that attach to the office of president of the People’s National Party which includes leader of the Opposition,” Phillips told reporters.

But even in defeat, Fitz Jackson, the chairman of the PNP, disclosed to The Gleaner that he will see the party through the expected transitional period.

“Having had the result that the party leader spoke of this morning, as chairman, I have to oversee the transitional exercise. That’s the first order of business. I have the responsibility to make sure that the party remains vibrant and undergo the necessary restructuring that need to be done,” said Jackson, one of the few senior men in the PNP to have retained his seat.

“When that exercise is completed then I will give consideration to my own role as chairman going forward. When you have dramatic changes like this in the party, the entire leadership will also question their own tenure and that also applies to me as chairman,” Jackson further stated.

Co-chairman for the PNP’s campaign Phillip Paulwell, in a sobering comment, said that the party was in for a “rough time”.

Arguing that the party has been at this place before, Paulwell said: “It requires us coming together as a unit. It requires us doing the analysis to make the correct determination as to the reasons for this tremendous loss.”

He said it was important that the party not blame the electorate for the defeat.

“We have to accept that the people are wise and conscious,” Paulwell reasoned.

He said that the party was misled by its internal polls as he reflected on how the PNP had brushed aside three national polls which indicated that the party was trailing badly the JLP.

“I did not believe in the polls because in our own estimation and the work that we were doing, we just never saw that. The polls that we did, for example North Trelawny, saw us winning by 18 points. We lost it tremendously last night!” stated Paulwell.