An Opposition Deficit : How The PNP Failed
The latest polls commissioned by RJR/TVJ and conducted by veteran pollster, Professor Ian Boxil, show Jamaica’s parliamentary opposition, the PNP, several percentage points ahead of the governing Labour party; and apparently poised to form the next government. As we reflect on the poll numbers we must question how well the PNP has performed in it’s present capacity as opposition and if they have proven themselves incompetent in opposing weak policies, can we trust them to propose strong ones should they form our government again?
From my perspective, the PNP has been an absolute failure at being a credible or even meaningful opposition. The first challenge the PNP has in adequately carrying out it’s present function is the slate of spokespersons. Omar Davies? Robert Pickersgill? Roger Clarke? Can we honestly say this slate of opposition spokespersons have been adequate? No. No, we cannot. With the exception of Lisa Hanna, Fenton Ferguson and Peter Bunting; who else do we know? This is excepting the old faces mentioned above. The PNP should be thankful for Dr. Peter Phillips. Though twice rejected by the delegates, he has been the most effective opposition parliamentarian to date. Is the Opposition Leader even aware of the fact that most of the gentlemen she has appointed to shadow the government are associated with some of the greatest failures of the Patterson administration and then eventually hers?
Let’s take the Finance portfolio. Why is Dr. Davies given a platform from which to speak on the economy? He was Finance Minister for some 13 years and in that time, I understand the greatest growth the economy recorded was all of 5%. Wait, it gets worst. Dr. Davies has boasted this achievement. Can you believe it?
All of 5% in 13 years.
I wrote a post some time ago [The PNP’s Challenge] and I questioned why the party leader is so reluctant to shake up her shadow cabinet. The PNP should be positioning itself to do better than the JLP. How is this going to be accomplished if the party presents, in large part, the same people the electorate rejected in 2007? I’d like to suggest that if the PNP wins the next general election, it won’t be because they have proven they deserved it or are more competent, but rather because the JLP has dropped the ball. There needs to be a drastic change of the guard. Being in opposition is not just about playing politics and showing how hungry you are for power, it’s also about showing yourself ready and able to govern the country.
Has the PNP done this? Absolutely not.
First of all, the Opposition Leader is quoted as saying it is not the business of the opposition to “run the country”. While that may be true, it is the duty of an opposition to propose better policies than those presented by government. It cannot be enough to merely oppose everything the government says with no alternatives. That is not what a responsible parliamentary opposition is about. Further, it is grossly irresponsible of the PNP to stage so many parliamentary walk outs. What do these “protests” accomplish? How does the Jamaican people benefit from having their elected representatives walk off the job they were elected to do? It is disgraceful! It is further irresponsible of the PNP to consistently threaten protests and marches.
Inciting the public to civil disobedience is not the answer. The answer is to show the government incompetent. Show that you are a able government in waiting. What about having some town hall style meetings? How about going out there and engaging the Jamaican people on the “Progressive Agenda”? This agenda is good, in theory, the PNP needs to be working towards sensitizing the Jamaican public on what it contains. As a comrade, I am deeply concerned that my party isn’t doing all that it can. Senator K.D. Knight has charged that if the commissioners of the Manatt Enquiry do not provide a report that is acceptable, then there should be protests. No Senator Knight, I cannot agree with you. The commissioners should be able to compile that report without being threatened or intimidated. This is not the charge of a responsible opposition. It is not! The PNP-YO should also be ashamed of their call for Jamaicans to wear black in protest to the PM’s contribution to the budget debate, even before the PM had spoken.
If the PNP continues along this path, it will be no better than the JLP. The party risks becoming the party of “no”, and that is a terrible path to take. Jamaica is facing a serious opposition deficit. The PNP needs to wake up and realize that they have failed as a parliamentary opposition. And if they cannot oppose effectively, will they be able to govern effectively? I doubt it.