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Peter’s time to exhale - Phillips seeking to excite Comrades at public session of party’s annual conference today

Published:Saturday | September 16, 2017 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
PNP Chairman Robert Pickersill (left) and the party’s General Secretary Julian Robinson at a media briefing folllowing Friday’s private session of the party’s 79th annual conference.

When Peter David Phillips steps to the podium today to address his Comrades, and the nation, Jamaica's continuing high murder rate is expected to feature prominently in his presentation.

No longer under the shadow of the charismatic Portia Simpson Miller, whom he replaced as president of the People's National Party (PNP), Phillips is expected to focus on national security in a nation with a seemingly unending blood flow, which has continued across political administrations.

Phillips, whose address will close the public session of the party's 79th annual conference which is being held under the theme, 'People's interest, our Purpose, our Passion', is being challenged to make Comrades believe again, cause the nation to listen again, and the electors to vote PNP again.

"The conference will be historic in several ways. It will be Peter's first conference truly at the helm of the PNP, it will also be Julian Robinson's first as general secretary, and it will be my last as chairman after 25 years," Robert Pickersgill told The Sunday Gleaner late last week.

Pickersgill will not be seeking re-election for the position he took over under the leadership of the long-retired P.J. Patterson, and members of parliament Fitz Jackson and Anthony Hylton are expected to square off for the post at the first meeting of the party's National Executive Council after the annual conference.

In the lead-up to today's public session, Robinson, the relatively new general secretary, told our news team that the leadership team has already started to do things that have been on the table for several years.

"That's how you get things done. You do them," said Robinson.


Implemented measures


He said some of the measures already implemented include the ratification of agreed recommendations for changes to the party's constitution and the formalisation of the party's requirement for members of parliament.

The party has also included changes such as the auditing of constituencies with more than 50 groups once every three years, to remove groups in name only.

In addition, the PNP has formalised a nomination period for officers to be a minimum of five working days and a maximum of seven days.


Choosing issues to cover


According to Robinson, Phillips' speech, which he has not seen, is expected to be big on policy issues, with a number of local and international issues to be addressed.

But coming out of yesterday's private session of the conference, one senior Comrade told our news team that the party's president may have to leave international issues alone as local issues are too many.

"He may want to speak a bit about Jamaicans affected by the hurricane in the Eastern Caribbean, Texas and Florida, but honestly, look how many things are going on in Jamaica.

"The bread and butter of Jamaica's most vulnerable is at stake. The morgue business must be the most profitable business in Jamaica. Jamaica rotten, and getting rottener, so parson should christen him pickney first," said the Comrade.

He added that Phillips, who became PNP president just under six months ago, will be mindful of the continued waste of scarce resources by state agencies, Jamaica's continued indebtedness, and the procession of the best and brightest of Jamaica fleeing in record numbers overseas.