'Bias toward none'

'Bias toward none'

Phillips assures Comrades he'll be president for all

Senior staff reporter

Monday, September 23, 2019

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Dr Peter Phillips yesterday applied another suture in his attempt to stop haemorrhaging in the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) two weeks after he narrowly survived a challenge to his presidency by Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting.

Opening his address to the party's 81st annual conference inside the National Arena in St Andrew with with Psalm 1, Dr Phillips drew sustained applause and cheers from Comrades when he declared: “I assure you, I will be president for all the party, not just for some, and I will operate with bias toward none, and justice for all.”

Bunting did not speak from the platform, although the party had last week said he was slated to do so as part of the healing process. However, Dr Phillips congratulated him on a well-run race, eliciting more cheers from Comrades for the reconciliatory gesture.

“Comrade Peter Bunting led an intense and spirited challenge. I give him my respect, and I salute him,” the party leader said, gesturing for Bunting to join him at the podium. Bunting did, and both men held their clasped hands high in a show of unity.

On September 7, after he won the presidential election by 76 votes, Phillips immediately offered an olive branch to Bunting and his supporters.

“If the Comrades from the other side can hear me, I am issuing an invitation to all the Comrades, including the leadership, including the candidate, come over, let's celebrate as one party,” Phillips said at the time.

Yesterday, he told the conference that he and Bunting had met, that he had listened to the issues raised during the campaign, and would be taking all positive ideas on board to build a stronger party.

“All the officers, all the members of the executive in all the regions and the constituencies have much to do to build the party and rescue the country. We have to embrace new ways of doing things,” the opposition leader stated.

He told the Comrades that it had been a challenging year for the organisation, but that in recent months its membership had proven that the party has a robust internal democracy.

“I thank all the Comrades who participated the internal elections whether as delegates, supporters and organisers. All of us are members of the PNP. I thank those who reaffirmed their support for me as party president,” he said.

The theme of this year's conference was 'Work, Organise, Win' (WOW), an acronym which PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson last week said was chosen “because it best describes where we are now in our renewal process”.

Yesterday, Dr Phillips reiterated some of the policies which he said the party intends to pursue when it next forms the Government, including transforming tertiary education and extending full scholarships to the first child in each family that qualifies for university.

He said a future PNP Government would establish an institute for education to train principals, place subject leaders in schools, as well as provide mentorship for students and teachers as well as parents.

“Education is not just about information, it's about teaching values and attitudes as well; it is about teaching national pride and self-respect... it must include respect for the environment which is vital in today's world,” he stated.

He reiterated that a future PNP Administration would settle the long-standing challenges of land distribution, ownership and housing.

Dr Phillips also repeated his promise that a Government led by him would create opportunities for squatters to legitimise their status. “The next PNP Administration will make the most comprehensive assault on squatting and homelessness ever made in our country. This is not just chat. We are going to amend the laws there are over 50 laws and we are going to amend them to provide a pathway to landownership for those 700,000 people weh dem seh no live nuh weh; dem going to live somewhere,” he insisted.

He said the revolution in housing and land titling will involve the National Housing Trust as well, so that every contributor gets access to financing.

He again lashed out at the policy of contract work, which excludes some employees from critical benefits. He said, in the building of a new productive economy, all workers must be treated fairly and that to this end the PNP would introduce legislation that workers who operate as full-time employees are given all the benefits to which they are entitled.

The opposition leader said a Government formed by his party would focus on family life and the restoration of values by fostering change. This, he said, would be done via an institute of family life as part of a new ministry of social transformation.

Dr Phillips also reiterated the party's opposition to mining in the Cockpit Country, the states of public emergency, housing development at Bernard Lodge, as well as its support for changes to the Noise Abatement Act.

He also slammed the Government for deficiencies in the health sector and the crime problem plaguing the country.

On Saturday, the private session of the conference was held at Jamaica College auditorium in St Andrew where close to 3,000 delegates discussed policies and programmes, some of which are contained in a covenant document which was developed last year following a series of consultations.

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