Warning of democracy’s fragility, bishop urges PNP to end infighting
Leaders of the People’s National Party (PNP) sought on Sunday to present a united front at a service at the Boulevard Baptist Church where they recommited to the principles and values of the 82-year-old movement.
The Rev Dr Howard Gregory, who delivered the sermon, questioned whether senior members of the PNP were ready to commit themselves to nation building and abandon the intercine battles that have caused political cleavage in the party for almost two years.
Before, though, Gregory warned Jamaicans not to take for granted the island’s democratic traditions, framing that assertion in the context of the January 6 insurrection in the United States Capitol that threatened the lives hundreds of political representatives. Six people died in the riot, including a few to medical emergencies.
Outgoing President Donald Trump has been widely blamed for stoking the unrest.
Gregory said that some of the forces that helped to create the toxic environment in the US were present in Jamaica as well.
The clergyman asserted that there must be “separation between Church and State”.
To buttress his argument, Gregory said that he had noticed calls in some quarters for Jamaica to have a dictator to cure its social and political ills.
He said the PNP’s steps towards recommitment have come at an apt time.
“This party suffered a clear defeat in the last general election, and yet, regardless of the derogatory ways in which developing nations like ours have been labelled in discourse over the last four years, there was no denial of the outcomes of our elections or attempts to reject the outcome with violence,” he charged, hinting at Trump’s characterisation of “sh**hole” nations.
“At the same time, you have gone through a change of leadership, which is usually an unsettling experience and a time of adjustment for most institutions, and many obituaries have been written concerning the party and its future. Nevertheless, I suggest that the unqestionable truth for this country is that as long as this nation is governed by a two-party democratic system, it would never be appropriate for us to commit either party to that state where obituaries are applicable – whether of JLP or PNP,” Gregory contended.
He said that there was need for reconciliation in the PNP.
PNP President Mark Golding, in an apparent answer to Gregory, said the party he was leading would devote itself to nation building and more.
“We are moving beyond and away from the millstones of factionalism, internal discord, and the elevation of personal, selfish ambitions above the collective interest of our great party,” said Golding while addressing the congregation.
It is another attempt by Golding, who took over the leadership of the PNP in November 2020, to mend fences in the party.
Golding was recently accused by senior party functionary Norman Horne of arrogance. Horne blamed Golding’s attitude for persistent negative views of the party even after the dust had settled from the leadership victory over Lisa Hanna.
“So, we recommit ourselves to what is really an existential task. It requires both an act of will and of faith. It is a matter of deliberate choice ... choosing the path of reconnection with the people of Jamaica, choosing a path of development of a solid, progressive policy platform which tackles the deep structural challenges,” Golding stated.
He said the PNP was now a “big tent” where all were welcome.