PNP on a high leading up to annual conference
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
A NEW wave of high energy seems to be sweeping the People's National Party (PNP) in the lead-up to its annual conference in exactly two weeks time, September 18 and 19.
But senior party members are insisting that this has nothing to do with the wave of so-called energy drinks which has flooded the market.
Rather, Chairman of the PNP Conference Committee, Robert Pickersgill, claims that Comrades have been galvanised by the wave of blunders committed by the Bruce Golding administration over the past three years.
"Dudus and Manatt have galvanised the PNP," chuckled Pickersgill.
But there is no question among Comrades that the efforts of the party to close perceived rifts between PNP President Portia Simpson Miller and Peter Phillips, chairman of the Public Relations Commission, have been a catalyst in the process.
The visibility of Phillips at constituency conferences is a far cry from recent years. Our sources suggest that the olive branch has been extended and received.
"Although it (the convening of constituency conferences) is a constitutional requirement, the ground was never so fertile," Pickersgill gushed.
But Pickersgill was quick to stress that the PNP was not clamouring for national elections - it was simply inevitable.
"The question is when elections will be called, but we have not been pushing for any election, we are pushing for Golding's resignation," declared the long-standing PNP chairman.
However, a Sunday Gleaner probe has uncovered that the wave of excitement is also rippling through the rank and file of the PNP, as well as its supporters.
PNP loyalists reasoned that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is settling its legal bills incurred in the dual-citizenship scandal and journeying through potholed roads across the island to whip up support through the elaborate launch of the government road-rehabilitation programme.
Not to mention the Government's promise to appease the disgruntled nurses.
Pickersgill, the opposition spokesman on transport and works, supports the view that the road programme signals the start to the JLP campaign.
"I was at the St Catherine launch, and it was clear that this is how they hope to win the election," he said.
He vows that he will not sit by and allow the JLP to exploit the use of public funds.
"Who are the subcontractors? Everything is shrouded in secrecy," he declared.
both parties in election mode
Some party members say the PNP's new energised state is being built to counter the tacit start of the JLP campaign.
In effect, the two major political parties have kick-started their election campaigns, but will not say so at this time.
The PNP leadership is clearly pulling out all the stops to have a memorable conference to send a strong message to the JLP.
"I expect a full house," said Pickersgill.
PNP General Secretary Peter Bunting suggests that his party is reaping the dividends of hard work over the past year.
"The year's activities were primarily undertaken within the framework of the medium-term strategic plan objectives, which were presented to last year's conference and implemented through the secretariat, regional structures, party commissions, and spokesperson task forces," Bunting told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said tremendous overall progress had been made in the areas of candidate selection, improved functioning of constituency and divisional organisations, and electoral preparedness, including enumeration and canvassing.
"The secretariat has successfully continued its modernisation drive with the overall strengthening of the integrity of our financial accounting systems and membership records," Bunting asserts.
Asked how the party, struggling for cash, will cope with a conference bill that is being kept under wraps, Pickersgill said, "It is always difficult to find money, but somehow we always manage."
The big day
President of the PNP, Portia Simpson Miller, with Dr Peter Phillips by her side, and a host of other senior members, have been marching towards the big day with a renewed sense of purpose.
Constituency and divisional conferences have taken on a hype not seen for some time in a party that seemed to have been languishing in prolonged drowsiness.
"We are very encouraged … . They (the conferences) are impressive not only at the constituency level but at the divisional level, within the context of joblessness and the state of the economy," declared Pickersgill.
The governing JLP has been scoffing at opposition claims that the economy is floundering.
The Labourites cite the lowering of benchmark rates - the best in more than 30 years; the positive results of the JDX; the passing of successive IMF tests; much higher-than-projected net international reserves, and the stability of the foreign-exchange market.
impressed with caretakers/candidates
The PNP chairman seemed impressed with new caretakers/candidates Jolyan Silvera and Richard Parchment, who were among the newcomers whom he claimed sent energy levels skyrocketing.
Pickersgill, clearly invigorated by how his efforts are turning out as chairman of the conference committee, was not sparing in his praise.
He heaped them on sitting members of Parliament (MPs) for South East St Ann, Lisa Hanna; Central Manchester, Peter Bunting; and North West Clarendon, Noel Arscott, for their mobilisation skills.
All three are first-time MPs in their respective constituencies.
Bunting served a term between 1993 and 1997 in South East Clarendon.
"They have pushed it (the energy level) up a notch or two in terms of benchmark," claimed Pickersgill.
He said this had been bolstered by the decision of Simpson Miller to work her way around the island, making her presence felt at parish meetings.
As he spoke about the energy that had hit the PNP, Pickersgill was not in the mood to steer clear of the woes of the governing party.
"Never before in the history of modern politics, I can recall, that an administration has become so unpopular in its first term," declared Pickersgill.
But polls show that the new PNP administration, led by Michael Manley, which swept the general election in 1989, faltered and looked like a one-term government after it was unable to contain inflation, which spiralled beyond the 100 per cent mark in 1991.
The PNP revived under P.J. Patterson, who replaced Manley in 1992, and, assisted by unprecedented in-fighting in the JLP, it was able to carve out a historic victory in 1993.
Pickersgill recalled that the JLP administration of the 1980s also looked like a minority government within two years of the 1980 election.
"The criticisms that can be justifiably levelled at Golding cannot be levelled at Seaga because he was never in that position."
Pickersgill contends that there has been no analysis of the Government's performance.
In the current dispensation, Pickersgill said PNP supporters are energised by the failure of the JLP to fulfil numerous promises it had made on the campaign platform in the lead-up to the 2007 general elections.