Javid Brown: The PNP’s Leadership Dilemma

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Thursday was a momentous day for many Jamaicans who have any interest in politics, as the Leader of the Opposition Mrs. Portia Simpson-Miller gave an unprecedented interview to Mrs. Emily Shields.  Based on reports, Mrs. Simpson-Miller actually scouted Mrs. Shields for the interview and not the other way around, this in and of itself is unheard of, as giving interviews to the media was something that somewhat seemed beneath our beloved Mama P.  The interview which lasted for over 30 minutes touched on various topics, however the most notable parts were Mrs. Simpson-Millers gross disdain for media interviews during her reign, her parties decision not to take part in the political debates leading up to the General Elections and her future as party leader.

I must state expressly that the interview did more damage to the former Prime Minister than good.  Her answers were not clear and it proves she was really not the leader of the People’s National Party but a mere powerful political tool used to drum up support when necessary; except in the last election as her handlers did too much damage for her to repair in time.  When asked why she did not grant interviews to the media, Mrs. Simpson-Miller responded ‘because I was not asked’, now, unless I am living on another planet, how can I take the leader of the opposition seriously?  Media houses consistently complained about the inaccessibility of the former PM during her years in office, so how could Mrs. Simpson-Miller not have known that the media wanted to speak with her? And even if they did not ask, wouldn’t common sense and strong leadership acumen dictate that updating the country on what’s happen directly was important?  Further, when Mrs. Shields asked why didn’t Mrs. Simpson-Miller take part in the political debates, her response was incredulous, she said ‘I didn’t make that decision, others did’, now, I do not mean to come down hard on Mrs. Simpson-Miller as I truly have respect for her years of service to the country, but, seriously? Is that a serious response coming from a former Prime Minister? I was left so saddened by the interview and saddened because Mrs. Simpson-Miller is proving the naysayers right when they question her aptitude to handle interviews and non-scripted interactions.

I am surmising that PSM’s renewed attraction to the media may be because she smells the rat as it relates to her tenure as party leader and the imminent challenge she will face. She may be trying to reignite her charm and ‘peopleness’ that once made her unbeatable. The delegates must decide the future of Portia Simpson-Miller, but presently, her stars seems to be fading.  It is a sad day when great leaders do not understand when to bow out gracefully as opposed to sullying their own goodwill single handedly.  Now, with the stage somewhat set for a leadership challenge in the PNP, I see 1 and only 1 possible leader emanating from within the party and that is Julian Robinson.  Mr. Robinson has distinguished himself as a level headed, strategic thinking individual who has handled many situations in the most diplomatic yet straight forward way.  I cannot speak empathetically of his leadership style, however, I think based on what is portrayed he has enormous respect within the party as a young man to really step up to the plate and lead the PNP.  Anyone who is expecting Peter Bunting, Peter Phillips, Lisa Hanna or Philip Paulwell to become leader is in denial as to what is required to be a leader in the modern age.  Peter Phillips does not command a great deal of fondness from the public, his only great contribution that can really be remembered is passing the IMF tests, and no one can take these accomplishments away from him. However, he is not a new politician, therefore, he should have a string of excellent performance results if he wants to be elevated to the ultimate position within the party not simply based on years of service, this nonsensical thinking of being entitled because of many years of service has done the public sector a great deal of injustice and must be stopped, therefore even within the political parties-merit should be the reason for political elevation.  Phillip Paulwell’s performance is dismal, and that’s me being extremely polite. His stewardship over the emergence of the telecom sector in Jamaica is noted; however, personally I cannot view this as any great achievement considering the world was being driven by technology during that period. Therefore, governments in democratic societies where business trade internationally and citizens travel frequently, would be forced to embrace the telecom/internet sector in order to remain relevant and competitive.  His mismanagements however overshadow his gains.  I genuinely like Peter Bunting I just do not see him as the leader of this country. I think he makes a greater contribution in the private sector being the savvy businessman he is.  Lisa Hanna has gotten so much flack for being beautiful, that her beauty is one of her greatest political downfall.  Ms. Hanna was an ok minister; she didn’t stand out or made any great strides singled handedly that can be attributed to her after her tenure in the Ministry of Youth.  Also, the foray in her own constituency brings into question her leadership ability and keeping a unified front.  With this summary, the PNP is in a true bine, as its succession planning seemed to have failed or never existed.  I encourage Mr. Robinson to start hitting the ground, touching base with the delegates and the powerful people within the party, and I encourage the delegates to really look at him as possibly the only person in the party that can, at this time, match up to Andrew Holness.

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