Tribalism vs Democracy – The Aftermath of the PNP Election

Say it isn’t so! Jamaicans’ long awaited leadership transformation of the People’s national Party (PNP) is underway! After last week’s internal elections following Peter Phillips’s challenge of Portia Simpson for the presidency, the party appears to be shedding everything orange except the relic practice of calling each other “comrade”.

The outcome of the elections, while shocking to many observers seemed to be ripping the party of Norman Manley to shreds as the divisive tribal politics mostly evident among those of divergent political persuasions for the past decades appear to have turned inwards. While I look forward to a complete change in the generation of leaders that are guilty of taking Jamaica down a road of destruction, violence, poverty and mediocrity, it is still a shock to see the chaos and what appears to be an apparent unraveling of this political institution.

One would have expected to see a more orderly succession – not a meltdown. The unleashing of proxies to force the resignation of members of parliament and other supporters of Phillips is less than honorable. Simpson, if she is interested in a governable political organization must act to exert control before these radioactive and possibly criminal actions become uncontrollable. This requires an immediate condemnation.

It was certaint that Phillips would suffer political consequences, but widespread purging of the party will take years to repair – if ever. The PNP at this time is exemplifying intolerance for differences in political affiliations or opinions. How can one expect the impressionable younger generation to act responsibly when the influential political leaders fail miserable in this regard?

Is being at the apex of the party political pyramid more important than having strong and vibrant exchange of ideas for the future? Elections are still a valuable tool for the democratic process and should be encouraged, not suppressed. The democratic process cannot be diluted to maintain or reinforce the status quo. The spate of resignations and allegations of sabotage and personal grievances has to resonate throughout the PNP with long term consequences for many years to come. It is incumbent on the PNP leadership and its president to put an end to what appears to be tribal political expulsions.

Unless the PNP president and her supporters arrest the damage they are doing to the PNP and show acts of humility, there is more than average chance that a third party could emerge – one having a few seats in parliament. That is an outcome that would be welcome, if such a party has radical new ideas with an agenda that promotes real change in governance, security and economic opportunities for the people.

If the differences in the PNP are so great that there is no possibility of reconciliation, and Phillips has an overwhelming conviction that he offers the alternative political leadership lacking in Jamaica, then he should indeed aggressively consider that alternative. If he does not want to start a rebellion of that magnitude, he should rally around the party leader and offer his warm support for party and country. Rather than stoking the conflicts, there is a need for calmer heads to step to the forefront and show some real leadership.

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