Today’s PNP Presidential Election is About the Future of Our Democracy

The 2840 People’s National Party (PNP) delegates who are eligible to vote in today’s leadership battle between Rise United’s, Peter Murcott Bunting (2nd Peter) and One PNP’s, Peter David Phillips (1st Peter) have an important decision to make. 

Source: RJR/Gleaner

Polls commissioned by both candidates suggest one is more likely than the other to win the next general elections but, based on independent polls conducted, people have concluded that whatever the outcome of today’s election, the odds are stacked against both 1st and 2nd Peter. Some political commentators have said this is simply a race to the bottom to determine who would lose better against the politically savvy and well liked, Andrew Holness of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) but recent elections have shown that any kyaad can play at any time and change the ‘inevitable’.

At the start of the leadership race, I had much hope that there would be substantial discussions (not banter) about the challenges facing the party, including their performance and standing with the electorate. I wanted to hear workable solutions to address the issues comrades, commentators and others have bemoaned about for many months. I hoped, naively I suppose, that, though not the tendency, there would have been some sort of admission and that they would take stock of their party and demand more of both candidates rather than harp about resumes and long service. Note, I am not saying that this has not happened at all. I admit that my knowledge is somewhat limited because, beyond traditional and social media, I am not privy to the conversations that would have been had with persons in communities and other spaces while both camps canvassed and wooed those they engage.

In 2016, I argued, in this paper, that the PNP “is in a peculiar position as it wrestles with the notion of ‘renewal’ and maintaining much of what has been touted as sound beliefs and practices that make it the political party of choice.” Sadly, three years later, not much seem to have changed. Save for the now energized base (thanks to the challenge), it remains lackluster and leaves us wanting while some convince themselves this is still “a PNP country”. I hope though that the interest the leadership challenge has generated nationally will cause delegates to realize that the outcome of this hotly contested election is as much about the PNP as it is about the future of our democracy.

Quite frankly, it’s a daunting responsibility that they alone have to make as we hanker to see who they decide will get the coveted title. The delegates and party workers may not necessarily realize this as yet because quite a bit of their attention, I believe, has been about winning the next general elections (yeah I know that’s what political parties do) than it has been about the circumstances that lead to the challenge in the first place.

Given that today is the long awaited D-Day, they must now realize that their decision will make a statement to the nation about the calibre and leadership of the party in the coming months and the kind of role they will play as the opposition, including holding the government more accountable to its obligations to us, the people. The country simply cannot wait until the PNP regains power for it to perform. We have not that luxury of time to twiddle or thumbs as its exceptionality percolates until it becomes government. Whether in government or opposition, we the people require political parties to work with and for us, to be outstanding.

Therefore, at the end of the day, the delegates will have to cast their votes based on:

  • the candidate they feel is best suited to lead the party at this important juncture in their history,
  • who puts them in a better stead to compete with and possibly beat the JLP when an election is called,
  • the individual with the plans to disrupt the status quo, to modernize the party, address the challenges they are having, improve the communications, etc.,
  • the person who can engender confidence in their leadership among the National Executive Council (NEC), Regional Executive Council (REC), party workers, party members and the Jamaican people at large, and
  • the individual who with the help and support of their team can present bold, inspiring and workable ideas to move Jamaica forward.

Commendations and good wishes to both candidates. May the best Peter for the PNP win. One hopes that after today’s historic vote, whoever wins will leverage the energy this leadership challenge has engendered to breathe more life into the party while at the same time adequately dealing with the challenges that have festered for so long and those that came about due to the current leadership race.

Source: Jamaica Observer

Call Centres Everywhere. Are We Paying Attention?

Last night, on Twitter, I wrote “Call Centres are like churches and bars. There is one of every corner (in Kingston). Scary.”

My tweet was read with much skepticism. The responses, unsurprisingly, suggested that unemployment is scarier and one person asked if we should ask the call centres to pack up and go. Of course, that is not the answer and certainly not what I want.

What I have noticed, each time I raise the matter of how frightening it is that there are so many call centres all around and how dependent we have become on them, is that the vast majority of us do not think beyond the mere provision/availability of a job. This is rather sad.

Call centres, like all-inclusive hotels, are are among the primary sources of employment in Jamaica–especially for young people. They are also the spaces where our citizens face rampant abuse, paid low wages and without options for redress to challenge the unfair treatment they are subjected to. I shared my concerns about this section in The Jamaica Gleaner a year ago.

Privileged as I might be, I am acutely aware of the experiences of persons working in call centres (and all-inclusive hotels). Their rights, their dignity, their humanity are often ignored and trampled upon. They are forced to remain silent, to suffer, to accept the abuse because they have no job security. They are constantly told/reminded that there are many people on the outside waiting for them to leave to get their job. This is no way for anyone to live.

I am happy that there are opportunities for people to be employed but I am bothered about the conditions under which people, some of whom I know, are forced to work. We can’t only think about the availability of jobs. We have to think about the quality of jobs people can access for gainful employment, the laws and policies that protect them, and their access to redress if their rights are violated.

We have to be concerned about the rapid rise in call centres (there must be a reason for this). We have to be concerned about how we woo these entities to our shores (usually by letting them know they can pay us much cheaper than they pay Americans, according to one ad I saw from JAMPRO). We have to be concerned about the benefits offered to these entities to set up shop in our country. We have to be concerned about how we condition our people to accept abuse and the violation of their rights.

What really is the point of working so hard if the conditions under which you work are poor and you can barely take care of yourself? Perhaps someone will do an independent assessment to truly understand the situation –economic, psychological and otherwise and determine a way forward.

The Great Divide: Crime and Juveniles

Kingston too

Once upon a time not so long ago, I worked with drug users, coked out prostitutes that many pass on the streets, dirty, shabby, some HIV Positive and looking worthless.  Not only did I work with them, I listened to them, shared my lunch and dinner with them, hugged them, wiped their tears.  I saw a few who were accepted into ‘rehabilitation’, but one in particular stuck with me.  She had gotten hooked on crack by her lover, who then put her into prostitution to both support her developed habit and ofcourse for his profit. She was a very intelligent, educated, a former business owner…her life was perfect until she met the wrong man.  The day I convinced her and the man, to allow her to go into therapy, was one of the happiest days of my life as I walked her into getting help, and tracked her progress.  To…

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