PNP's election-monitoring committee needs to step in
Early last month when the political joust started in the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) over Mr Peter Bunting's leadership challenge to party President Dr Peter Phillips, we had asked whether the combatants on both sides would have heeded an appeal from Mr A J Nicholson to end nasty verbal exchanges.
At the time we had speculated that Mr Nicholson could merely be whistling in the wind, as the nature of political contests tends to be brutal.
This contest is no different. In fact, it appears to be much worse than previous internal PNP battles as so many Jamaicans are plugged into social media where a large majority of the abuse, accusations and disrespectful comments are being published.
One of the latest acts of mischief forced Mr Paul Burke, a former general secretary of the PNP, to issue a statement on Monday categorically denying that he had penned and released a document expressing concerns about Dr Peter Phillips's One PNP team.
The apparent intention of the first document was to paint a picture of disunity in the Phillips camp, as Mr Burke is a declared supporter of the sitting PNP president.
Mr Burke has labelled the distribution of the document “a desperate, diversionary distraction from the Bill Johnson polls” released on Monday by the Phillips campaign, and which show the PNP president in a strong position.
He also said the action is an indication of panic by what he described as “an already climaxed campaign and the losing of delegates from what is being called on the road, by a rapidly growing number of PNP supporters, the Drop Down Team”.
It is clear that the current contest has reopened deep wounds inflicted on the party from as far back as 2006 when Dr Phillips, Dr Karl Blythe, Mrs Portia Simpson Miller, and Dr Omar Davies contested for the leadership after then PNP president and Prime Minister P J Patterson announced his decision to retire. That election resulted in a victory for Mrs Simpson Miller.
But the wounds were apparently still raw two years later when Dr Phillips announced a challenge to Mrs Simpson Miller. He lost that contest, but the fact that he mounted the challenge has dogged him since, as party insiders have been heard to comment “same knife stick sheep stick goat”.
In his appeal Mr Nicholson, a senior and respected member of the PNP, said: “The present output, in particular on social media, is not what is expected from membership of our party which, with its undoubted warts, boasts such a respectable tradition in this regard. A powerful message could be sent should both contestants for the presidency of NW's (Norman Washington Manley) party move to publicly address that issue now, and to do so together.
“They must quickly be seen to lead meaningfully in that promotional space. And, what is more, that kind of example, and insistence, will help to smooth the path for the necessary bridge-building that must begin when the last vote comes to be counted.”
He is, of course, correct. For after September 7, when the delegates have voted and the results announced, the PNP will need to heal. That, we expect, will be very difficult, especially given the vulgar and divisive statements being made by supporters and, indeed, by officials on campaign platforms.
The party's election-monitoring committee needs to get both sides together and impress upon them, as well as their supporters, the importance of decency, even as they engage in vigorous campaigning.