Sun | Jun 13, 2021

Update | Brown Burke eyes bigger role as PNP chair - Paulwell ranks his chances at 50/50

Published:Wednesday | November 25, 2020 | 12:22 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
Angela Brown Burke is seen here with Portia Simpson Miller, predecessor MP of St Andrew South West.
Angela Brown Burke is seen here with Portia Simpson Miller, predecessor MP of St Andrew South West.

Unless warring factions of the People’s National Party (PNP) agree on an eleventh-hour compromise candidate, St Andrew South West Member of Parliament Angela Brown Burke could create political history if she emerges as its chairman on Sunday at the National Executive Council Meeting (NEC) – the first since Mark Golding was elected president.

Brown Burke is being challenged by Phillip Paulwell, the MP for Kingston East and Port Royal, in which the Norman Gardens municipal division falls and where Brown Burke was once a councillor and the seat for her Kingston mayoralty.

Paulwell said he would not actively participate in the 2020 campaign but later asked the delegates of Region Three to support Hanna’s candidacy.

Hanna beat Golding in Region Three, which is headed by Paulwell, but lost the overall internal poll by 296 votes.

“I limited my ability to persuade Comrades to a region which I have been familiar with for many years. And the candidate did win the region. What the people in this party know me for is that I am a party man,” Paulwell told The Gleaner.

“When the issue of leadership is settled, as was the case with P.J., Portia, Peter Phillips, I back my leader. The party can’t succeed if the leader fails,” said Paulwell, who has put his chances at 50/50.

Brown Burke said she was honoured to serve the party and was willing to serve in any capacity, but the monumental leap to the chairmanship was not lost on her.

Victory would make her the first woman to chair the 82-year-old PNP.

But Brown Burke sought to play down the authority of the role, saying that the post of chairman has been largely ceremonial, adding that the party’s constitution did not address it in detail beyond procedural responsibilities. But she has grander visions on a more expansive reach.

“I see the role as being far more fundamental. The chairman sets the tone and then leads by example, but it provides the opportunity to do other things, including important conversations and programmes around philosophy and policies. I believe that this is a big part of the unity,” she told The Gleaner.


As spokesperson for Golding in what was a bitter campaign for the presidency, Brown Burke is well aware of the fracture that continues to dog the party.

She said that members of the party ought not to air their dirty laundry in public.

“Currently, we don’t know how to speak to each other and speak of each other without being disrespectful. I have always been known as someone to protect the democratic space,” said Brown Burke, who has served in every capacity from canvasser to vice-president.

The party has descended into public political chaos and used social-media platforms as purveyors of invectives, “baring their political butts,” a retired party official said on Tuesday evening.

“The PNP formed several gangs since 1992, and the supporters of P.J. Patterson then are the same people and their descendants causing the problems for the party in 2020,” said the source, adding that the form of the gangs had changed over time.

“You have a set who are the intellectual gangs. Then the destabilising, then pro- and anti-woman; then anti-money; and anti- and pro-youth, and right now, they are at the foolishness gang,” said the respected former PNP official, who said the worst of the party was on show in the in the lead-up to, and wake of, the 2005 leadership race.

Both Brown-Burke and Paulwell served as PNP vice-presidents, with Paulwell being an incumbent. Both served in opposing camps for the last two leadership challenges.

Paulwell supported former president Dr Peter Phillips in the 2019 race against Peter Bunting and Lisa Hanna’s losing bid on November 7 this year. Brown Burke was a campaign official in Bunting’s losing bid and played a similar role in Golding’s success.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had the PNP as 182 years old. That was a typo. It should have read 82 years old.