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Orville Taylor | Is PNP out of dirty laundry yet?

Published:Sunday | August 4, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Paul Burke

There is a four-letter onomatopoeic word, sometimes suffixed with the preposition ‘up’, which both crudely describes the most intimate of interactions as well as the act of doing major damage to something or someone. Generally, the rule is that the negative application of the word should never be used acrimoniously, or ‘acronymously’, for undermining collegial kinfolk.

When one is part of something much larger than himself, he must be careful that his actions do not bring the larger entity into disrepute. Yet, there are also times when even though one belongs to a small circle, one has to be faithful to the place where one retreats and lays one’s head at nights.

Generally, there are rules of civility which are obeyed by people who understand that they are part of a system. For example, among martial artists, and that excludes murderous mauling matches (MMA), one never hits the opponent in the face with a bare fist, hits the adversary on the ground, or attempts to break bones or draw blood.

Indeed, in traditional tournaments such as those organised by Seido, the fighter who maims or causes serious bodily harm gets disqualified. Among the various traditional schools of the art, there is so much respect that it was possible to have a combined martial arts fighting team. In fact, I can recall a friendship that came out of a triple extra time match between a young wannabee Blacky Chan from Seido and a tae kwon do fighter in 1985, which ended with a split decision.

All-out War

What is happening in the internal fight for the leadership of the People’s National Party (PNP) is at best embarrassing, and it seems that it is not a simple family squabble but an all-out war.

This is 2019, not 2008 when Peter Phillips challenged then two-year incumbent Portia Simpson Miller for the presidency. Nor is it 2006 when both rallied for leadership for the vacancy created by P.J. Patterson. Indeed, it is a far cry from 1992 when Simpson Miller faced off against Patterson to become the first leader not surnamed Manley.

In 2019, there are close to two million smartphones, and news and non-news spreads faster than flatulence in a crowded elevator. Potential electors are given information in real time. This places the greatest level of responsibility not so much on the loose-lipped persons who have full access to myriad social media. Rather, those who seek political office or wish to influence public opinion have to be very careful regarding their utterances in the public spheres. It might have been different if some of the awful things said in 1992 were made public as they are now.

Daily Comrades publish comments which should not even be said about their political nemeses. Lots of dirty laundry is being washed. This includes publicising privately made confessions, cussing persons, and reminding them of the assistance they were given while on their faces, and other statements that cut so deeply that I cannot imagine them being healed when the dust settles. Right now, the PNP needs no enemies; because its friends and family are doing the job very well.

One might not recall, but around 14 years ago when the JLP was falling apart at the seams, party leader Seaga rebuffed the comparison with the PNP, which had a strong appearance of unity under the leadership of Patterson. Seaga remarked something like, “Wait until they are in Opposition and you see.”

To the credit of Patterson, he was unflappable, and discouraged his supporters and, later, party faithful to avoid ‘cass-cass’ and nastiness. This level of civility is the greatest achievement he brought to the politics of a country that had come out of an undeclared civil war.

Yet, I am still totally stunned by the public statement by PNP stalwart Paul Burke, who is apparently lining up behind a different Peter than his wife, Angela. He accused his wife, his right hand, his mate for life, his soulmate, of betraying and deceiving him. Well, obviously Matthew 6:3 was at play here, because the left clearly did not know what the right hand was doing. Nevertheless, although I am not sure what the expression means, I can imagine Angela reprising her famous three letters asking, “WTF?”

A well-scripted apology

True, he has apologised publicly and has said all the right words, in a well-scripted apology. But a tailored apology does not cut out the cut cloth and the wrath which the cloth caused. No one knows what happens when the doors are closed at Burke Manor but as William Congreve wrote in his 1697 play, The Mourning Bride, “Heav’n has no rage, like love to hatred turn’d, nor hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.”

Some lines must never be crossed, in public or otherwise. My father once told me of an incident in the 1960s when a senior JLP officer made ill-advised statements of the illness of Norman Manley, cousin of party leader Alexander Bustamante. The sanction was swift and it involved some back-benching, too.

The damage is already done, Burke put his mouth where his money is and it is a clear case of ‘cock mouth kill cock’. As he sleeps on the couch and truly comes to understand the significance of one’s wife being his right hand, let his faux pas be a turning point in the debacle. As I said in previous commentary, a party that can’t unite itself cannot govern a nation.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to and