Jamaica: The Future Of The People’s National Party

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Classified By: Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission James T. Heg,
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)


¶1.(C) In the recent September 2007 general elections the
ruling People,s National Party (PNP) was narrowly defeated
after 18 years in power. While the official total seat count
for the 60-seat Parliament was 27 for the PNP and 33 for the
then-Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), there are still
pending issues and the final tally may change. Thus far,
former Prime Minister (PM), Portia Simpson-Miller (PSM) has
refused to accept defeat with grace and dignity on the basis
of the preliminary counts on election eve, September 3. She
was quoted at the PNP annual conference on September 16,
saying, &We did not lose the election, it was taken from
us(.8 (Note: While the election was not without incidents
of impropriety, the Organization of American States (OAS)
declared the elections &free and fair.8 End Note.) Now
there are many questions about where the PNP will go from
here, and what will be the fate of Portia Simpson-Miller.
End Summary.

The 69th Annual PNP Conference, September 16
——————————————— –

¶2.(C) Poloff attended the PNP,s 69th Annual Conference, on
Sunday, September 16. The event had a lot of pomp and
circumstance, but lacked in substance. Normally PNP annual
conferences are three day affairs that follow earlier
regional conferences and the elections of regional delegates.
However, due to the timing of the election this year, set by
then-PM PSM, the regional conferences were not held, and due
to the expenditures of money for campaigning and the poor
results, the conference was shortened to just one day.
According to the constitution of the PNP, a properly convened
annual conference allows for the election of party officers
and the President of the party, along with four vice
presidents. The agenda for the conference listed &Election
of Officers ) (President and 4 Vice Presidents)8 as the
fourth item of the day. However, shortly after the
conference began (90 minutes later than scheduled) the
Chairman of the PNP, Paul Burke, announced that the National
Executive Committee (NEC) had met during the previous week
and decided that all current officers would continue in their
positions and that no elections would be held during this
short conference. This position was confirmed by the
party,s legal adviser, but not well received by all
delegates present. Former Member of Parliament (MP) P.D.
Knight objected on the grounds that convening the conference
without holding elections contradicted the party,s
constitution. Former PM P.J. Patterson came to the
microphone and confirmed Knight,s position, i.e. that it
would violate the constitution to skip over the election of
officers. After much arguing and many delegates taking turns
at the microphones, PSM took center stage, asked for order
and announced that it was the NEC’s position, that since the
regional delegations had not met, all procedures could not be
followed, and therefore she recommended that a motion be
brought to the floor to allow the postponement of electing
officers until such time as the regional conferences took
place. The motion was seconded by PNP Vice President, and
former Minister of National Security, Peter Phillips. A voice
vote was held and the motion carried. (Note: When P.D.
Knight tried to express his opinion, he was almost shouted
off the floor. Only when the General Secretary, Paul
Buchanan, shouted for order, and reminded the supporters that
the PNP values diverse opinions and democratic practices, was
Comrade Knight, allowed to speak. End Note.)

The Enemy Within

¶3.(SBU) After the motion to skip election of officers passed,
there were many attempts by rank-and-file delegates to
express their opinions on the matter, although several
speakers simply wanted to express their unfailing support for
PSM as party president. Other delegates vociferously
maintained that the reason for the PNP,s recent electoral
short-coming was the “enemies from within.” Two or three
speakers expressed the opinion that there were candidates
within the party who simply went through the motions and did
not fully support the party. (Note: No names were stated,
but it was clearly insinuated that some candidates had not
wanted PSM to win, and therefore had undermined the overall
campaign. End Note.) The theme of the 69th Annual
Conference was &One Family( looking to the future,8 and
the party leaders were careful to reinforce this message
throughout the conference.

¶4.(C) Before the conference opened, the local media
speculated that the failure to win the majority would likely
spell the end of PSM,s political career. However, after
witnessing the opening of the conference and the entrance to
the arena of the PNP senior members, it was very clear that
Portia still has a special place in the hearts and minds of
the majority of the PNP faithful. From the first sighting of
PSM, AKA Sista P,, with rhythmic music booming in the
background singing, &Portia Power…Follow Portia…8 it
became very clear who this convention was all about. The
music continued for more than 10 minutes during the grand
entrance of the leaders with three different songs, clearly
original compositions, about Portia and who she is and what
she stands for. (Note: Another interesting section of lyrics
talked about how Portia is not afraid to pray everyday and
how she loves all the people. At times the convention swung
between a Portia love-fest and a Christian revival session.
Peter Tosh,s reggae-beat version of the 27th Psalm was
frequently played, and also very well received by the party
faithful. End Note.) Attendees vigorously waved yellow and
orange flags with &Portia8 as they danced to the music.
PSM,s face and name could be seen on all manner of clothing
worn by her supporters. &Sista P8 was also repeatedly
referred to as the &Mother8 of the PNP family. Throughout
the one-day event, at key points PSM got out of her chair and
danced out to center stage, waving to the masses, driven on
after many shouts of &Portia, Portia!8 It was very clear
from the moment Portia walked on the stage that she was the
focus of the event and remained the unquestioned leader of
the grass roots PNP supporters.

PSM and the PNP,s future plans

¶5.(SBU) When PSM finally began her Party Leader,s address,
75 minutes after its scheduled start time, she began by
saying, &The PNP is alive and well, and prepared to take
back the government of this country. But I want to qualify
that by saying by peaceful means. Comrades, I love you
all!8 (Note: The PNP shows its socialist roots by the
repeated use of the term comrade. End Note.) PSM also
stressed in her speech that she accepted the results of the
election, but was very careful to emphasize she was not using
the word, &defeat.8 During her 90 minute speech there were
only one or two references to the PNP being an opposition
party now and much of the beginning of her speech sounded
like a continuation of her campaigning speeches. Her speech
was interlaced with references to the JLP buying the
election; she claimed the JLP outspent the PNP ten to one in
campaign expenditures. “PSM’s speech has attracted
considerable negative commentary in the media. For example,
popular radio talk show host Wilmot Perkins called it
‘disgraceful” on September 17, and the Gleaner on September
18 called it “outrageous” and “bellicose” and a threat to the
stability of Jamaica.

¶6.(C) Finances were mentioned throughout the day, and the
lack of fundraising was frequently cited as one of the
biggest problems with the PNP,s campaign. The PNP claims
that they did not take money from special interests and they
are indebted to no special interest groups, domestic or
international, as a result. (Note: There is speculation
that some PNP campaign funds came from Cuba and Venezuela.
At the beginning of her speech, PSM recognized &our comrades
from overseas.8 Also, Poloff,s PNP contact pointed out
that there was a Cuban delegation present at the conference.
End Note.) PSM claimed that the JLP had spent over J$50
Million (about US$714,000) on their campaign and that is why
they had been able to take more seats. The party general
secretary, Buchanan, continued to emphasize the need for

money, and during the wait time for the Party President to
take the podium, encouraged delegates to bring donations to
the front and announced the amounts and donors over the
public address system.


¶7.(C) The PNP is still in a reactionary mood, and many
members of the party appear to be in a state of denial.
However, one thing comes across clearly: it is far too early
to write the political obituary for Portia Simpson-Miller.
While she may lack the higher education and polish of many
Jamaican politicians, she does not lack in spirit, drive, or
self-confidence. Further, she is strongly supported by the
working class and by women of Jamaica in general. There are
cracks forming in the upper echelons of the PNP; clearly,
many of the long-time players are not happy with PSM at the
helm. However, her closest rival, MP Peter Phillips, was
very careful to show no signs of dissent publicly during this
event. He frequently was seen whispering to PSM, and stated
publicly more than once that PSM was the President of the PNP
and she would remain so for the future. Former PM P.J.
Patterson (PJP) showed that he is still active in the party,
being placed at the front table and referred to frequently by
various officers of the party. (Note: Some people believe
that PJP is still pulling the strings of the party, and that
PSM is his puppet. End Note.)

¶8.(SBU) While the new JLP government led by PM Bruce Golding
(BG) has publicly held out the proverbial olive branch to the
PNP, all signs point to a negative response. Much criticism
was leveled at the JLP and BG for asking PSM to sit down and
&talk about Jamaica8 during his inauguration speech. More
than one PNP speaker highlighted this as proof that the JLP
is not prepared to govern. At one point during her speech,
PSM claimed she and the PNP Opposition would be &the JLP,s
worst nightmare.8 There was absolutely no talk of finding
ways to work with the JLP for the greater good of Jamaica, or
plans to sit down and speak privately with the new PM. There
were references to the PNP having &one of the most brilliant
sets of lawyers you can think of8, an allusion to the
pending constitutional issues, ballot recounts and any other
possible challenges that might bring more seats back into the
PNP fold. Her message to the JLP was a warning, 8We will be
watching you.8

¶9.(C) At this point, it appears the PNP has done little
constructive planning for the immediate future of the party.
They have hired two consultants from the University of the
West Indies (UWI) to analyze the results of the election
campaigns and prepare a report for the NEC of the party. The
conference was hastily organized, and the leaders showed
their lack of preparedness as they failed to give
well-founded answers to their own delegates, questions. For
now the biggest question hanging over the party is: does PNP
stand for People,s National Party or Portia,s National