The much anticipated by election is over, not surprisingly, the PNP’s Kenneth Rowe lost overwhelmingly to the JLP’s Daryl Vaz. Despite that, the electorate’s referendum on the stewardship of the JLP remains an enigma. Had the results been from any other constituency we would have been fooled into believing that the majority of Jamaicans are supportive of this inept JLP government but Vaz had a message: “performance over party loyalty”.
There are three other JLP controlled seats before the Jamaican courts and if precedence is followed there will be three other by-elections unless Prime Minister Bruce Golding chooses to call an election in the near future, given that he will have to unveil the most unpopular and austere budget Jamaica has ever had, more so, in this time of global financial upheavals.
Nothing should traduce the success of the governing JLP; they should be allowed to exult in their triumph even though it might end up being a pyrrhic victory. For the PNP the postmortem has begun. There is an indictment against its national leadership and stewardship in West Portland. According to many pundits, those who witnessed the defeat on the ground and from afar, the PNP miscalculated the impact national issues would have on the constituency and the defeat was a rejection of PNP President Portia Simpson Miller who spent an inordinate amount of time and political capital in the constituency.
But honestly, was the defeat a rejection of Sista P? I think not. However, I do believe that there is something very wrong in the PNP’s regional and national leadership cadre which is hampering its election machinery. Areas of the party’s leadership are lacking in vim and vigor and maybe through osmosis that lack of energy has been transmitted to many mid level party workers. Hence they have become less passionate, they are unlike the JLP and they are unable to mobilize their partisans around a common objective like the JLP is currently doing.
Frankly, the party which I love and consistently votes for is in a state of confusion, denial and ineptness a la the JLP under Edward Seaga circa 1985 to 2007. The JLP under Bruce Golding and Robert Montague learnt that lesson well. They have turned the tables, now they know how to win. The PNP were outspent, out organized and out messaged by an upstart JLP!!
While we might listen to those enlightened critics and analysts whose vantage point was either from their TV sets at home or the confines of a studio, those same sanctimonious ones who are now extrapolating the number of votes that both parties received, those who are critiquing Sista P have lost sight of the fact that in West Portland the PNP had no political machinery in place, they had nothing. Blame for that lies in the Constituency, Regional and National leadership but we must not jump and agree with their wholesale condemnation of the PNP’s president. We should be tolerant of them. Could it be that they have not recognized some of the contributory factors which led to the PNP’s demise? If they do not then they are naught but asses.
While I hold no brief for Portia, those who have begun to blame her are obviously blind to a number of telling factors which hamstrung the PNP, particularly, the selection of a candidate with dual citizenship albeit Canadian, a fellow Commonwealth country, hence the selection was in conformity with the Jamaica Constitution.
The expenditure of more than $300 million in State funds, the infusion of State funds through surrogates; i.e the T.E.F and the promise of overseas employment via the Ministry of Labour, the transferal of votes from garrison constituencies, the belated disbursal of hurricane relief funding along with a plethora of other feel good goodies may also be factors.
The PNP under Abe Dabdoub stood pat as they abandoned the constituency wile the PNP apparatus was allowed to grow fallow. They apparently thought they could obtain the seat by virtue of a court ruling. What a disappointment the Supreme Court ruling must have been to them! From then the PNP were playing catch up … election done!!
Lost in all the din is the fact that the PNP workers did their job. The second pre election canvass by the PNP workers in the West Portland constituency accurately pointed to the number of votes the PNP candidate would receive on election day. Those dedicated workers should be congratulated but lets make no mistake many of them who worked on election day fell down on the job. Some were lazy, some wanted to be paid for every voter they transported to the polling station, others wanted to be paid before they would allow the transported voter to go in and vote, some even allowed the JLP outdoor workers to get to the door of the polling station and coerce prospective voters. It’s a darn shame!
Many of those workers are naught but vulgar mercenaries, whose sole intent is holding the PNP hostage on election day. They must be purged now before the next general eection or the PNP will become the JLP of Seaga’s vintage. I didn’t make up those allegations. I got that information from the politically astute W.C. St James people who were there on the ground on March 23.
Somewhere along the line, prior to the 2002 general election, many PNP workers lost their zeal to contest the JLP in the trenches. Those workers saw many of their leaders getting fatter and became resentful. Thus the disconnect between the workers and the hierarchy got wider. As a consequence, they threw down their arms opting for instant financial gratification as opposed to the rabidly passionate JLP adherents who wanted power at all cost. The PNP has to find a way of reigniting that zealousness in its cadre of workers and supporters.
The entire cadre and leadership of the PNP needs to reassess it self and ask of themselves some searching questions such as: why are some constituencies without credible leadership? What is our message? What are our attributes and accomplishments which can be trumpeted? Is Sista P hugging, kissing and avowed love for poor people our only hope to recapture Gordon House? Who speaks to the young voters of this country? How can they meld national and local issues into a comprehensive indictment of the JLP in a way which the average Jamaican will buy into? When did the PNP start to lose its bearing? When did the PNP become the party of charisma rather than the party of ideas? What has happened to the vaunted PNP political education of yore? Where is the Vernon Arnette School? Did the decline of the PNP begin at the time when MPs cavalierly destroyed legitimate PNP groups and began to pay for paper groups in order to buttress their standings in the election of party officers? How effective is the current general secretary? One of the first things the PNP has to do in order to become competitive is to get a new General Secretary; one who can relate to the young of the country, one who speaks the language akin to that of the JLP’s G2K. The party needs to grow up and lop off the dead limbs that are currently keeping it in an atrophied state.
While I am not a fan of Basil Waite, the Opposition’s spokesman on Education, working in tandem with the two current deputy general secretaries, Luther Buchanan and Julian Robinson, I do believe that he would be a worthy General Secretary. I sincerely believe that Waite aspires to become party leader at some point. Like his mentor P.J.Patterson, Waite will not wait while the leadership dawdles and allow the JLP to consolidate power.
He will strive to be pro-active. I do believe that he is calculating and ruthlessly efficient and that’s the kind of person the PNP needs now as general secretary.
Waite’s father-in-law Dr. D.K.Duncan replaced another businessman as PNP General Secretary in the 1970s and transformed the PNP. Maybe its time that either he or his wife, Imani Duncan-Waite, a most efficient tactician, who possesses the technological savvy and the necessary political mettle needed to whip the PNP back into shape and create a sense of vibrancy if the PNP is to have any hope of returning to power. Now where in that analysis is Sista P to be faulted? If there are any areas that I’ve missed call her out on it or shut up.