PNP unity to be tested as party conference set to take aim at JLP
Dr Peter Phillips
Despite rain in the forecast, thousands of comrades are expected to descend on the National Arena in St Andrew on Sunday for the public session of the annual conference of the People’s National Party (PNP).
The Opposition party is expected to use the occasion to pressure the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) over an unrelenting murder rate that has seen a two per cent rise in homicides despite five parishes and a police division in another being under a state of emergency.
Amidst both real and perceived successes of the economy, Opposition Leader and PNP President, Dr Peter Phillips, is expected to contend that only a privileged few have benefitted from the just-concluded programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and growth targets are slipping and poverty is on the increase.
The PNP is also expected to highlight the issue of corruption that has dogged the Andrew Holness-led Administration, and present itself as a united organisation ready to retake the reins of Government following a bruising presidential contest between Phillips and Central Manchester Member of Parliament (MP), Peter Bunting, that threatened to split the party.
The conference comes two weeks after Phillips fended off the Bunting challenge in a special delegates’ election inside the same venue where the comrades will gather on Sunday. At the end of the vote, Phillips retained the presidency of the 81-year-old party but by a margin of 76 votes.
The senior leadership of the party, including Bunting, has since been keen to present a united front. That projected unity will be on full display on Sunday, as Bunting is slated to address the conference.
Defeated PNP presidential candidate, Peter Bunting (left), party Chairman, Fitz Jackson (centre), and party President, Dr Peter Phillips, in conversation in church last Sunday.
“It is a process and I think we have started well, and we will continue that process as we demonstrate that the party can heal after that election,” said PNP General Secretary, Julian Robinson, at a media briefing last Wednesday.
The annual conference will be held under the theme ‘Work, Organise, Win (WOW)’.
“This (theme) was chosen because it best describes where we are now in our renewal process. We have been focusing on strengthening our organisations in the constituencies by putting new candidates in place and a support system of workers to ensure that we are election-ready in all of our seats,” said Robinson.
“We are putting in the work in our constituencies. We are focused on enumeration and outreach. For us it’s not about winning an election, but ensuring that we are in a position to deliver the policies and programmes on behalf of all Jamaicans,” Robinson added.
The conference is slated to get under way at 10.00 am and Phillips should make his address at about 1.00 pm.