Three-year term suggested for PNP top postsSunday, September 26, 2021
BY ARTHUR HALL
THE Evaluation Committee of the Opposition People's National Party has suggested an end to the system that allows its senior officers to be challenged annually.
This is an apparent move to prevent the bloodletting that stained four of the party's leadership contests between 2006 and 2020.
The committee, appointed to review the mauling the party suffered in the 2020 General Election, has proposed that the PNP gives its president, four vice-presidents and chairman, three years in office before they can be challenged.
The Delano Franklyn-led Evaluation Committee has also recommended changes to the party's group system to give all members the right to vote in elections for president and vice-presidents.
According to the committee, it is generally felt that the PNP's group structure, its grass root organisation, has broken down.
“One officer of the party said that 90 per cent of the groups are 'paper groups', with only about 10 per cent effective. Another officer said that 10 per cent was too high, and that real groups were down to under five per cent of existing groups. This comment with regard to groups is not new, as it was pointed out in the 2016 Appraisal Report,” said the Franklyn-led committee.
“There was general consensus that the groups no longer serve the purpose intended, and that they are now being used by persons for the purpose of electioneering within the party; that persons would pay to bring groups up to date financially and that the groups would be used to do the financial backer's bidding,” added the committee.
It argued that the breakdown of the group structure has led to significant challenges in undertaking canvassing, leading to the party being fed incorrect data.
“It is also felt that the delegate system is iniquitous as delegates no longer represent the views of the group, and that it is felt that it is the delegates who gain 'benefits at the expense of other group members'. Despite the broadscale criticism of the current group structure, it was felt that it ought to be retained but must be reviewed in terms of composition and activities,” the committee added.
Against that background, Franklyn and his team recommended that “the Secretariat immediately undertake a comprehensive audit of all groups in order to determine which of the groups are active and which are not; that every group member be made a delegate with voting rights up to annual conference; that current members be given delegate status and voting rights at every level of the party, including [at the] annual conference”.
Since 1992, when PJ Patterson defeated Portia Simpson Miller to become the third president of the PNP, replacing Michael Manley, the party has had four presidential elections in a 14-year span, from 2006-2020, with each being more divisive.
These included an unsuccessful 2008 challenge by Dr Peter Phillips to Portia Simpson Miller, some two years after she had been elected the party's fourth president.
Phillips faced a challenge about two years into his tenure after he became the party's fifth president in 2017. He managed to just hang on to the post after a stiff fight from Peter Bunting but walked away from the post after the September 2020 General Election wipeout of the PNP by the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party.
That opened the door for another contest, with Mark Golding coming out ahead of Lisa Hanna in November 2020.
“From our enquiries, the division has gotten far deeper in the party since the internal elections in 2019,” said the Evaluation Committee.
“Party members at all levels… identified it as the main reason the party failed to win the election. One person in the leadership of the party, in [his] appearance before the committee, identified what he described as four 'different wings' in the party and that everything is interpreted within the context of each wing and the personalities involved,” noted the committee.
It added: “The division in the party, which has been ongoing since 2006 and which got deeper during the period 2015 to 2020, threatens the viability of the party and, if not dealt with head-on, will find the party warming the Opposition benches for years to come.”
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