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Mark Wignall | Some in PNP want snap election

Published:Friday | August 18, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Dr Peter Phillips

"If we get caught with a snap election, it will be a great ejection," said the PNP MP to me of Dr Peter Phillips. "He has spent many years in the political process. We are not now prepared to wait on him still trying to generate positive tea leaves for the PNP.

"It is my understanding that an internal poll privately commissioned by someone in the PNP has shown the JLP five points ahead. For now we could live with that. But even worse is the huge distance in leadership preferences. Holness stands way out ahead of Phillips. Big double digits."

I was surprised that the bright but normally reserved MP was telling me this. "Could you sneak me a copy of this poll?" I asked. He told me he would try. A year ago, he was willing to mentally award leadership to Phillips. Now, the impatience is obvious.

"Every backbencher, MP and caretaker in the PNP is looking for the leader to draw out a leadership plan that also shows the route to the retaking of political power. I have not actually seen the poll, but the news of it is all around in the PNP. Even before that, the general mood of those who study elections in the PNP is that 2020 is another win for the JLP. We want someone to challenge Philips before that time."

I spoke with a few well-connected PNP persons. None would go on record; most said they knew of a poll, but they said they weren't aware of the results.

"I know that you have long been a supporter of Phillips as PNP leader," one said. "He has a lot of work to do, and as you know, time is not on his side. The unexpected death of Dr Winston Green has brought sadness to those of us who knew him. In practical political matters, in a few months' time, there is going to be a by-election in his South East St Mary seat.

"Many of us in the PNP are very uneasy about that seat."

"Are you saying the JLP could win it?" I said.

"About sums it up," he replied.

"So what if the JLP picks another seat," I said. "How will it radically change the political calculus?"

"Simple. The JLP's tail will be high up in the air and Holness - don't take him lightly - may decide to go for a general and four or six more seats."

On Thursday, I quizzed him as to who would be best poised to take on the mantle of leadership. "You have hinted at it in your column today. Paulwell. The big question sign is his public appeal. Our people know where he stands among the delegate body of the PNP. In a three-way run-off between Phillips, Bunting and Paulwell, I think Paulwell is safe.

"But it is still a big question as to whether he can actually win a general election anytime between 2018 and 2020."


Can't wait to leave the shelter


Thirty-six-year-old Frank is big on faith, on belief, but hedges his bet on trust. "I cannot go back to my family in Manchester. There is no trust between us. That path mi nah trod pon now."

After leaving the country in 2011, he lived with a friend in the Constant Spring area but that relationship soon soured. "Is him was paying di rent dere and I was to pay light and water from mi likkle hustling. Is painting on canvas mi do and sell dem pon di road."

One late evening, he came in and his friend had locked him out because he had a girl in the room with him. "From seven di evening until six a clock a morning, mi sleep pon a piece a concrete outside di door. Mi use some wrap-up paper fi a pillow."

Eventually, his friend was evicted for the non-payment of rent and he was on the streets.

Frank went to high school in Trelawny and is now living in a shelter in the city's east. "All my energies," he said, switching to near-standard English, "is towards getting out of the shelter. It's less than 70 but more than 50 of us here."

He tells me the name of a well-known public servant who got him admitted to the shelter. "Yu could seh a she save mi life but she know seh mi nuh waan grow old ya so. Inna di night, di grille lock and mi all a seh what happen if di place ketch fire.'

"You are fed here?" I asked.

"Three meals a day, but ... mi nah complain bout di food when I don't have a choice. In di days, mi also help out a old woman at har stall downtown. It rough here. Pure deportee here and every man have to be a badman. Me get a big lick wid a piece a stick and a jus seh to myself, I not gwine retaliate.

"I trying to keep mi body alive just to get out a start back mi life. Mi get tired a di roach dem a crawl pon mi a night-time."

Again he switched to English. "I know my paintings are not bad and I know that they will save me and give me back the right to call myself a man. Sometimes I do not sell even one for the week, but, I will never give up."


Urgency of CCTV cameras


A few days ago, I was horrified all over again as I used my cell phone camera to take a pic of the bloodstains left behind after the murder of a young man.

He had just left work and was standing by the bus stop at minutes to 10 p.m. A car drove by him, slowed and a gunman stepped out. He was shot multiple times even as his body was lifeless on the asphalted area. Afterwards, the gunman re-entered the white car and escaped.

For many months now, that spot at the transport hub at Chancery Street near Meadowbrook has attracted my attention. It is a place where business is quite brisk during the days but also there are criminal elements in the bloody extortion racket operating.

The main target is transport operators. I have written more than a few articles about shootings and murders in the area and one would have thought that with the high visibility that the JCF has given to installing CCTV cameras, that area would be one of those seen as priority for the all-seeing eyes.

The type of policing in that area falls along these lines. Police and transport operators swoop down. Some of the men operating little roadside stalls are taken in. A few 'ductors and loader men are also scraped up.

A few hours later, they are back on the road. Why were they taken in in the first place?

It is my understanding that the young man murdered had made a decision to do like the rest of us: live his life like a responsible citizen. "He came from a rough area and had moved to a section of Greater Portmore," someone who knew him told me.

"He was attending church, was saved, baptised and got married. And, as humble as it was, he had a job."

The CCTV cameras, had they been installed in that area, would have given detectives the perfect jump-start in solving that and the many other murders that have taken place there.

I know that National Security Minister Bobby Montague is fully on board with CCTV, but more urgency is needed. Determining just which action is high priority when violent criminality is significantly up is never easy. But the minister was never expecting simple solutions.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.