Peter Phillips can't fool all the people all the time

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, July 08, 2018

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If you are filled with false pride, then you will have no room for wisdom. — Guinean proverb

Whichever way the People's National Party (PNP) tries to slice it or dice it, it remains an open secret that Dr Peter Phillips was the de facto prime minister from January 5, 2012 to February 25, 2016. He was the one who called the shots. They may wish it to be otherwise, but the PNP needs to understand that: “The past is not dead. It's not even past,” said William Faulkner, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate.

In recent days, Dr Phillips's handlers, particularly on social media, have significantly increased the decibels with which they utter these lines: “Peter is a new creation; Peter is a brand new man.” The ironies evident in these words of the former de facto prime minister are deafening:

“Ministerial accountability is not only about the absence of corruption, but also about safeguarding public trust. Only a prime minister can act when this trust has been betrayed. Failure to act only deepens cynicism among the people.”

“The prime minister's solution to the Petrojam scandal is completely against the principles of ministerial accountability. If the minister's failure in the practice of management and good governance are so evident, how can he be allowed to continue?”

These and similar recent comments in Parliament and on social media by Phillips might lead someone just landed from Mars to think he is new to the political scene in Jamaica.

The PNP wants the public to believe and buy into a false narrative that Dr Peter Phillips, Phillip Paulwell, Peter Bunting, and the rest of 89 Old Hope Road's top tier are pristine political players. It is obvious that Phillips's aides are very anxious to distance him from the PNP's record of inhumane austerity, phenomenal ineptitude, rampant corruption, and mounting crime and violence which caused the previous Administration to be booted from Jamaica House.

I suspect the PNP is going to have more than a little difficulty in their attempts to rebrand Phillips as a new man. Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Additionally, the PNP needs to understand that Google's memory never fades. It never takes a vacation. It never sleeps.

Old tricks

There is also this related matter. The birds, those reliable Black-Bellied Plovers, John Chewits and Banana Quits, tweet that there is still deep, residual upset among significant pockets of PNP supporters over the calling of the February 25, 2016 General Election. The birds chirp that consequential numbers of Comrades squarely blame Dr Phillips for what they believe was an unwise and unnecessary rush to the polls with almost a year left on their political odometer. Those political wounds, the birds shriek, are still very raw.

Recall that Dr Peter Phillips was the PNP's campaign manager. Recall that on Sunday, July 19, 2015 Phillips spoke at a political rally in York Town, Clarendon. Dr Phillips and a delegation had just returned from a political junket to Ethiopia. At York Town, Phillips placed the country on election alert when he placed Comrades in the 'stand behind your blocks' mode.

The birds also warble that many who are genetically linked to Norman Manley's party are still smarting from what they feel was a lacklustre PNP campaign that wrongly centred on the half-finished house of the then Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness, despite private and public warnings to cease and desist by numerous pundits. Recall this headline in The Gleaner of November 24, 2015? 'Phillips rides Andrew's house again'. The story said, among other things: “For the second consecutive week, Andrew Holness's house came in for special mention at a People's National Party (PNP) meeting. As he did in Portmore, St Catherine, two Sundays ago, Dr Peter Phillips turned up in Black River, St Elizabeth, with a mission to put clear daylight between the leaders of both political parties — Portia Simpson Miller of the PNP and Holness of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

“ 'We have a leader with a proven record. I say so, and dem don't like it! We know what her values are. She has spent more than 40 years in the political vineyard working for the poor and the dispossessed of this country. Her mission is not to build nuh big house!'”

Rural folks, in their philosophical genius, maintain that, “You can hide and buy land, but you can't hide and wuk [work] it.”

Harbinger, I say!

At his confirmation, Dr Peter Phillips declared that he “will not apologise for embracing democratic socialism”. ( The Sunday Gleaner, March 26, 2017) What does Peter Phillips really mean when he says this? This is a harbinger.

Ludwig von Mises, Austrian-American thinker, said a long time ago: “The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterised by rigid observance of routine, and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the Government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office.”

Two Sundays ago Dr Phillips, while addressing the National Executive Council of his party, said among other things: “If people can't learn to be self-disciplined then we will have to impose the discipline of the party on them.” He was apparently cautioning some Comrades on social media. I believe Phillips's utterance amounts to a threat against freedom of expression.

Recall this banner headline: 'PNP puts gag on members speaking with the media on internal matters'. ( Jamaica Observer, July 24, 2017). The story said, among other things: “A resolution adopted at Saturday's meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the People's National Party (PNP) requires that members of the party must seek approval of General Secretary Julian Robinson to comment on internal party matters in the media.” This is a harbinger.

If Phillips and the top brass of the PNP think they can censor and/or otherwise stymie communication flow in a world where information can be exchanged at speeds similar to the twinkling of an eye, they probably also believe that the Earth is flat and not spherical as has been established by science.

Ill-advised support

Why has the PNP simultaneously identified itself with a rogue regime? Despite the sea of evidence that what Nicolas Maduro is calling an election was anything but free or fair and/or free from fear, Peter Phillips and the PNP came out in support of Maduro.

A release on May 28, 2018 said, among other things: “The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) has extended congratulations to Nicolas Maduro on his re-election as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela at the national polls on May 20.

“ 'Please accept my personal congratulations and those of the People's National Party on the occasion of your re-election,' PNP President Dr Peter Phillips wrote in a letter, which the party said was delivered to the Venezuelan Embassy on May 22.” ( Jamaica Observer, May 28, 2018). This is a harbinger.

Dozens of nations have distanced themselves from the Maduro regime. A story by the Associated Press on May 21, 2018 said, among other things: “A growing roster of nations condemned Venezuela's presidential election Monday and threatened to ramp up diplomatic and economic pressure on President Nicolas Maduro's already embattled Government.

“A coalition of 14 nations from throughout the Americas, including Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, pledged to scale back diplomatic relations with Venezuela and urge international organisations not to issue Venezuela any new credit.

“Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy decried the vote as not respecting 'minimal democratic standards', and vowed to consult with European counterparts on new measures in hopes of 'easing the suffering of Venezuelans'.

“I heard a BBC report some weeks ago which stated that up to 5,000 Venezuelans are fleeing their country every day. Dozens have been killed in protests. Hundreds have been imprisoned. In 2001, Venezuela was the richest country in South America; it is now among the poorest.” ( The Economist, January 28, 2017)

The Sunday Gleaner, two weeks ago, carried this sad headline: 'UN says Venezuelan security forces killed hundreds'.” The story said, among other things: Venezuelan security forces have carried out hundreds of arbitrary killings under the guise of fighting crime, the UN's human rights body says. In a report, it cites as “shocking” accounts of young men being killed during operations, often in poor districts, over the past three years, the BBC reported.

According to the BBC, the UN's human rights chief said no one was being held to account, suggesting the rule of law was “virtually absent”. A Reuters report on May 7, 2018 gave this grim picture of the suffering of the Venezuelan people: “Venezuela's annualised inflation reached nearly 14,000 per cent in April, according to figures released on Monday by the country's Opposition-led National Assembly, which publishes its own economic indicators amid silence at the central bank.

“The OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) nation's socialist-run economy has collapsed, leaving the country withering under hyperinflation, constant shortages of food and medicine, and a growing exodus of Venezuelans seeking better conditions elsewhere.

“President Nicolas Maduro says the country is victim of an 'economic war' by Opposition leaders that he says has been fuelled by financial sanctions imposed by Washington.

“Consumer prices rose 80 per cent in April, compared with 67 per cent in March, according to the legislature's figures, and rose 13,779 per cent in the 12 months ending in April.”

This headline in The Gleaner of June 23, 2018 should have grabbed the full attention of all right-thinking Jamaicans: 'PNP affiliate blasts US policy, calls for children to be reunited with their families swiftly'. The story said, among other things: “The External Affairs Commission of the People's National Party (PNP) says it hopes the United States (US) Government will act swiftly and effectively to immediately reunite hundreds of migrant children who were separated from their families at the US-Mexico border. The concern comes days after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end his Administration's policy of separating children from parents caught crossing the border illegally.“The PNP affiliate group, in a statement, said the decision to cease this aspect of America's zero-tolerance approach to illegal border crossing is timely and says it hopes the relevant agencies will act swiftly to reunite these families.”

The PNP wants to give the impression that it is a champion of human rights. Why then is 89 Old Hope Road silent on the hundreds killed and thousands imprisoned in Venezuela? Are some lives more equal than others? Is socialism more important than human blood? Is principle decided based on ideology for the PNP?

Former UK Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill once said that: “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

Last Wednesday the country commemorated the 125th anniversary of the birth of national hero and founding president of the PNP, Norman Washington Manley. He must be turning in his grave at what the PNP has become.

Tourism continues to boom

The Caribbean News Network reported last week that Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said tourism contributed approximately $62.2 billion in revenue to the Government's coffers in 2017. Bartlett has done a marvellous job in tourism consistent with their 'strategy'.

I suspect the PNP will soon claim the credit.

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

The superior man makes the difficulty to be overcome his first interest; success only comes later. — Confucius

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or

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