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One PNP set to 'Rise' united

Leaders say party will come back together after presidential contest despite marred campaign

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 18, 2019

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CALLS for a tone down of the vulgar and rude rhetoric which has so far sullied the People's National Party's (PNP) presidential race have largely been ignored, but the leadership of both camps remain convinced that this will not prevent the party from coming back together after the election.

Supporters of the Dr Peter Phillips-led “One PNP” team and the Peter Bunting-led “Rise United”, including some senior members of the campaign teams, have been going at each other on the hustings, and even more so on social media, since the campaign started, prompting fears by some Comrades that the party will be left disjointed and ineffective after delegates vote on September 7, no matter who emerges the victor.

But campaign manager for the One PNP team, Natalie Neita, says the PNP has held internal contests before, emerged united, and will do so again this time around.

“I am very clear that I respect and I love every Comrade. We are Comrades and after September 8 we will have to reunite,” said Neita during the recent official release of polls commissioned by the One PNP team.

“It is a contest and people are getting hot under the collar. I want to just implore them to simmer down. We are going to win and welcome all as it is one PNP and we will be powerful together.

“We have had some bruising contests in this party and a lot has happened. I wish not to discredit any Comrade's decision but at this time I am just greatly confident that the majority of us who are willing to stay and fight for the core principles of the movement are well on board with Dr Peter Philips,” added Neita.

Chairman of the Rise United campaign, Mark Golding, also used the recent release of the polls commissioned by his team to seek to allay fears about the future of the PNP after this fractious contest.

Golding argued that this was not the first time that the PNP was going through a process such as this and pointed to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which has seen similar bitter contests.

The JLP emerged united after an unsuccessful bid by Audley Shaw to oust its leader Andrew Holness in 2013. Holness later survived a vote on his continued leadership of the JLP by its members of parliament in 2015. Months later Holness led the party to victory in the 2016 General Election.

According to Golding, there will have to be a deliberate and focused effort after the election while recognising that the ultimate prize of forming the Government is what supporters of both candidates are committed to.

“It is a competitive process that we are in, so on the field of play in the squad match, there will be the occasional tackle that should have been more gentle perhaps, although both sides have committed to rules which say we won't be doing anything to injure each other in any way, verbally or otherwise.

“But at the end of the match and the result is known, both sides will come together. We are on the same team so whatever talk that needs to happen in the dressing room will happen and we will come out of the dressing room ready to beat the Jamaica Labour Party, united and strong,” said Golding, as he used the analogy of a inter-squad match to decide on the captain of a football team.

Golding was supported by Bunting who also underscored that the PNP has been in this position before.

Bunting, who served as general secretary of the PNP in 2008 when Phillips challenged Portia Simpson Miller for the leadership in a contest marred by mudslinging and public verbal spats, said that experience left him uniquely positioned to understand what needs to be done in a very deliberate way to reunite the party.

“It is not something that you just leave to chance, you have to have deliberate interventions to cause the healing,” said Bunting.

“People don't just unite for unite sake, they need a transcendent purpose that supersedes whatever the individual petty issues are and allows them to pull together towards a common objective,” added Bunting.


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