Pryce, Housen seek to steady PNP ship amid choppy seas
Making a pitch for the post of general secretary of the People’s National Party, Raymond Pryce says that the 82-year-old political organisation needs a cool head but strong shoulders to guide it through current turbulent waters.
Pryce, a former deputy general secretary, is expected to face off with Dr Dayton Campbell and Jennifer Housen for the post.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner last week, Pryce said that his Chancellor Hall name of ‘Pacifist’ will come in handy for the task ahead and unite factions in the party.
“The role of the next general secretary has to include building and strengthening bonds; renewing others across the Jamaican diaspora; engaging fraternal political organisations and institutions of like-mindedness and direction; as well as rebuilding a bond, covenant, a relationship with various groupings of professionals, associations, and the citizenry. That’s the Jamaican family,” he said. “It is my view that the PNP is not as big on that kind of relationship as we once were.”
During his childhood and early adulthood, Pryce said, he knew what was meant when it was said that Jamaica was “PNP country”. Today, however, he said the phrase is the PNP is the “pickney and Jamaica is the parent”, hence the stinging rebuke it received at the polls in September.
Pryce recalled that he joined the party during the tenure of Maxine Henry-Wilson as general secretary and was recruited from The Patriots, the PNP’s professional arm. He said that he was among a group of young persons given real tasks by Henry-Wilson – a window through which he would hone political skills and understand the critical importance of the office.
“Because of what I learnt during that period, I always thought that the office of general secretary is the one I would like to serve in. I am also critically aware that, if that role is not properly managed and anchored, then it makes the electoral and social position and potential of the organisation that much more questionable and weaker,” Pryce told The Sunday Gleaner
When Henry-Wilson gave way to Burchell Whiteman, Pryce says, he observed a difference in approach, but the intent was the same.
He said, when he lost in his bid to become the party’s representative in Kingston Central in June 2019, he viewed it as a sign to bring strength and energy to the secretariat.
Following the PNP’s 2007 general election loss, Pryce’s work in the party’s Region Four with senior officials overlapped with his role as communications director in the office of then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller.
“So the closeness to the secretariat has always been there. I did not always get it right, but, over the period, I believe that my political maturation makes me, at this time, more suitable for the post as general secretary than the other contenders which have so far been made public,” he said.
At the time of the interview on Thursday, Housen’s intent was not known, but party leader Mark Golding’s endorsement of Campbell was made public.
“Earlier this week, the party leader indicated his preference for Dr Dayton Campbell. That changed the dynamics, and it also changed the gradient of the hill to climb to get the majority of the votes at the National Executive Council (NEC),” Pryce said of the body tasked with making the choice.
The NEC is the second-highest decision-making body of the party, outside of annual conference. More than 300 members comprise the body.
The former member of parliament for St Elizabeth North Eastern was unsuccessful in his bid to get the nod from the electorate in St Catherine East Central two months ago, after being asked to take up the mantle following the sudden resignation of standard-bearer Dr Winston De La Haye in June.
In November 2011, a month before the general election that year, he was asked to run in St Elizabeth North Eastern.
He said the party’s ability to depend on him, especially in times of crisis, speaks to the calibre of Comrade he is.
“My intention is to make sure that the organisation remains valuable to Jamaica’s development and I can further contribute to Jamaica’s development,” said Pryce.
That accounted for no public overtures from him during the 2019 presidential challenge, Pryce said, as he was eyeing the position as general secretary and wanted to “inhabit and display behaviour of transparency and objectivity, as would be required were I the general secretary”.
He has canvassed islandwide in his bid for the post.
“… So, when I say the endorsement [by Golding] of Comrade Dayton Campbell changes the gradient, that is exactly what I am talking about,” Pryce said, adding that he would not have spoken publicly about his bid had the endorsement not been made.
According to him, the approach to identifying the general secretary was never before placed in the public domain, so it was “new”.
“However, I expect to be supported by the NEC,” said Pryce.
In a release yesterday, Housen said that, after giving the matter much thought, she was offering herself for the post.
“There is a rebuilding and reuniting process that must be engaged, and which requires a general secretary seized with tenacity, administration, organisation, empathy, conflict/dispute resolution skills and an enthusiastic need to serve the party and support the Comrade leader. I feel I am able to offer all of these at this time,” she said, asking the NEC to back her.