Peter takes 'oath' - P.J., Portia, affiliates welcome new PNP leader
Surrounded by former People's National Party (PNP) presidents and prime ministers P.J. Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller, and in front of an annual conference-size crowd, Peter David Phillips yesterday took the oath of office to the presidency of the party - the first time it was being administered at a conference despite four previous leaders.
It was the 80-year-old Patterson, the winningest prime minister in Jamaica's history, who administered the oath, which was crafted by the PNP and on the request of Phillips himself. Patterson charged the incoming fifth leader to take the party to "new frontiers".
"We expect him to lead our party to retrofit its engines and to attract the tremendous energy, that is required of our time. He has to be at the forefront of the increasing struggle to change those things in our economic and in our social life that retard the progress of our country and its people," said the former prime minister to the incoming leader.
Continuing, Patterson said: "You will have to reignite the embers of dedication and the flame of voluntary work, which are so essential to securing the political ascendancy of the people's party, the national party."
But Patterson, who won general elections for the PNP in 1993, 1997, and 2002 before retiring undefeated in 2006, was not done giving the charge to Phillips and heaping responsibility on the shoulders of the man whose platform is 'Solid as a Rock.'
"He is supposed to lead the party in order to realise the party's purpose of building a Jamaica that works for all Jamaicans and which we are proud to call our home; to uphold and maintain the hallmarks of service and integrity, which have guided the party for the last 79 years; and to lead a team united and strong, which will bring progress, peace and justice to Jamaica, land we love."
TEARS FROM THE PLATFORM
There were tears on the platform and in the audience for immediate former leader Portia Simpson Miller, who arrived to the usual adoration of Comrades. When, on the introduction by Natalie Neita, she took the podium at 1:33 p.m., she urged her loyalists to become "Peter's brigades", telling them that he could not do it alone.
She said that she was privileged to have served from the lowest to the highest ranks of the party - from worker to party president and prime minister. She said that the PNP was in "good hands" with Peter Phillips and commended the party for the smooth transition from one leader to the other.
The onstage guard of honour signalled her last walk as PNP president.
Earlier, PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill gave one of his longest interactions with a PNP conference outside of presenting the chairman's report when he took Comrades through the party's history.
General Secretary Julian Robinson said that one of his main tasks would be to focus political efforts on constituencies the party won in 2011, but which were lost in 2016. He told Comrades of the consultations planned by the PNP, with the next one a discussion on the Budget.
The party, he said, was also in the process of defining policies and programmes that would be followed on its route to victory.
Jennifer Edwards also brought greetings from the women's movement, telling Phillips that he could rely on them for support.
A delegate from an affiliate group in the United Kingdom also brought greetings, as well as the National Workers' Union, through Granville Valentine.