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JAMAICA | Peter Phillips – On The Brink Of Power: The Man With A Golden Touch | Part 1

Dr. Peter Phillips will replace the Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller as President of the Peoples National Party Dr. Peter Phillips will replace the Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller as President of the Peoples National Party
A disastrous result for the People’s National Party (PNP) in February’s 2016 General elections and then again, in the recent Local Government election in November 2016, signalled the end of Portia Simpson’s hold on the leadership of the party. This automatically propelled to the fore, the man thought by many to be heir apparent to the leadership of the nearly 79 year old centre left Democratic Socialist party. 

No one can doubt that “Mr Fix it” Peter David Phillips is ready for the job, not only to take over the party’s leadership, but ultimately, to take over running the country.

Gordon Brown has been extolled as one of the better Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance) for the United Kingdom. Brown eventually became Prime Minister after his long-timed friend, Tony Blair, resigned. Some say the position was promised to him, others propose it was a reward for an excellent job done as Chancellor, while others assert that it was his due, for diligent duty and loyalty to his party. James Cusick, a Westminster journalist, described Gordon Brown on the eve of Blair’s departure as a man “On the Brink of Power”, a title borrowed for this article.

History now shows Brown’s ascendancy to leadership and Prime Minister, but he was never given the power he so desperately wanted. The question for us here in Jamaica, for the PNP and for Peter Phillips is, what can he (Phillips) do to ensure that this too, shall not be his Epitaph?

I find the fresh 4.30am morning air exhilarating as I took one of my many journeys from Montego Bay to Kingston, en route to a meeting with my educational colleagues. These journeys are not only refreshing because of the fresh morning air, but also because they usually find me alone with my thoughts, to reflect, evaluate and plan for upcoming events at work or otherwise.

On this particular cool February morning, my thoughts were settled on the impending coronation of Peter David Phillips as the sole contender for the leadership of the 78 year old Peoples National Party (PNP).

Aldin Bellinfantie
Mr. Aldin Bellinfantie is a renowned educator and High School principal.

My thoughts swung from the events of the last two campaigns for leadership to now, a decade later, and how he has always and most recently, assumed the leading role of the party through the Manat’s commission of inquiry, the Ministry of Finance and the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He also, without an elected title within the party, carried the mantle of an executive officer, an advisor, director of elections and everything else that the party thought would bring newness and appeal.

He doesn’t always move around with the fanfare and effortless sociability like Mrs. Simpson-Miller, the current leader. However, Phillip’s charm, conversational ease, social certainty, welcoming smile, steady gaze and general body language come at you and captures you in a biblical type rapture. These attributes signal a type of leader and leadership ability that inspires confidence and an appeal to wisdom, vision and a secured hand. It seems then, that the clamour for youthful leadership is not misplaced, because it cannot be helped if their ambitions and visions are pitched to the heights of Peter’s achievements.

A Brief Profile of Dr. Phillips

No one can doubt that “Mr Fix it” Peter David Phillips is ready for the job, not only to take over the party’s leadership, but ultimately, to take over running the country.

Persons who have known him since his precocious childhood, understand that one of the paradoxes of the man, is his inability to switch off. “Maybe Peter’s never really been ‘off’, someone said. It’s what makes him what he is; it’s part of him.

Peter Phillips, born 28 December 1949 in Kingston to Mico Teachers' College lecturer Aubrey Sylvester Phillips and civil servant Thelma Limonius Phillips. Aubrey was himself a graduate of Mico, where he had roomed with Howard Cooke, who would later become Governor-General of Jamaica. Peter spent some of his infancy in the parish of Manchester, where both his maternal and paternal grandparents lived, and he still considers it home.

He returned to Kingston and started pre-school there before moving to Saint Ann where his father assumed the role as principal of Moneague Teachers' College. He lived in the United Kingdom between ages six and nine while his father studied for a Ph.D. there, and then returned to Jamaica.

Dr. Phillips has had a distinguished career in government, politics and academia. He has served in a number of ministerial capacities, including Minister of National Security, a position which he held for six years. During his tenure as Minister of National Security, Dr. Phillips had significant success in reducing illegal narcotic flows through Jamaica and led a reform effort for Jamaica’s Security Forces.

Prior to that, he was Minister of Transport and Works from 1998 to 2001, where he was responsible for reorganizing the transport system in the corporate area and in the rehabilitation and improvement of the road network across the island. It was during his tenure that the now famous and talked about highway network was initiated. In addition, it was under his stewardship that a scrappy city mini bus system gave way to a proper urban transport system in the now renowned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC)

Between 1995 and 1997, Mr. Phillips served as Minister of Health. Prior to that, he served as Minister of Special Projects in the Office of the Prime Minister from 1991 to 1994, and Senator and Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister between 1989 and 1991. During his tenure at the Ministry of Health, his visionary leadership lead to the development of new health centres island wide, the refurbishing of others and the upgrade of hospital including and a new state of the art Mandeville Hospital.

A graduate of Jamaica College, Dr. Peter Phillips earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Master of Science in Government from the University of the West Indies.

He also completed doctoral studies in International Political Economy at the State University of New York at Binghamton, where he is a Ford Foundation Fellow. He has also been a Fulbright Scholar and has done scholarly work at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

Many will say that his journey into politics began in 1989 when he entered the Upper House of Parliament. However, I would say it began long before when he took to the hills in the late 1960s, as a member of the Twelfth Tribe Rastafarian group. Like the Biblical Exodus experience of the twelve tribes of Israel, Peter too, I believe, sought his “Wilderness Experience”, to search for truth and in that search, found self and his existence for being.

He eventually returned to “normal” society, but the radical in him didn’t just disappear, it just changed into a pragmatic politician who realized he was one part of a larger organization.” It is my fundamental belief, that it is from this experience that Phillips developed that insatiable desire and conviction to work for the underclass and build a Jamaica with a future that is fair for all, with full-employment and high-productivity; a Jamaica of world-class public services and a Jamaica where poverty is eradicated.

His politics has always been one of honesty. This he demonstrated in his last ministerial portfolio as Minister of finance. He showed us that we can succeed in the future, by demonstrating the strength to take the long-term decisions, but to remain always honest with the people about the direction and challenges ahead.

With that kind of consistency, there shouldn’t be too much difficulty in trying to determine what a Peter Phillips-led PNP government would look like. Yet there is. In a seeming new world order, where the “old establishment” politics are being shelved for a new nationalist order (made up mainly of the impatient young and the fearful old), as can be seen in the UK’s Brexit and the USA Trumps victory, Phillips is again called upon to steer a boat through troubled and dangerous political waters.

“That man [Peter Phillips] is driven by the desire to create a society that provides equal opportunity for everyone,”

So, beyond Phillip’s closed clique of protected loyal circle, the question of “Whose side is he really on?” is still quietly being asked. But beyond the speculation of political creed, Phillips has no hint of a masked ideology, his convictions and philosophy has always been clear and targeted, yet there remains the larger question: “Will he get his chance to rule?”

The core beliefs, the canon and doctrine of what has driven Peter Phillips, can by implied from his roots. His parents are from a quiet hillside farming district in Manchester called Blue Mountain near Davyton. His grandparents and parents attend the Davyton Congregational church (now The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands), where he was taught to “treat everyone equally.”

Upon that foundation, the Congregational construction gets more complex. His congregational ideology has a model of governance that celebrates firstly that; initiatives come from empowering people at the local base to offer themselves for service. Secondly that; the central level of governance get their authority from the people and thirdly that; the appointment of the persons to serve at regional and central government is for the common good of the people and not for selfish advantage.

There was, and is, an emphasis on self-reliance and self-improvement; there is still, in his speeches, a focus on the honesty and value of a strong work ethic. Industriousness is a virtue. In his paternal home, there is said to have been a culture of caution, circumspection and heedfulness. In a word? Prudence. The assumption is that the values engrained in the young Phillips created a unique product. Donovan Nelson, a close associate and one who has worked with Phillips in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, and before that, National Security has said;

“That man [Peter Phillips] is driven by the desire to create a society that provides equal opportunity for everyone,”

Phillips’ resolute approach to assignments, over the years, appears to have solidified triumphs in many of his endeavours in public life, even in the midst of disappointments. Those who know him readily attest to the gritty nature of the multi-faceted public servant. His dogged approach to life has seen to it.

Former Parliamentarian, Heather Robinson has known Phillips even longer than Nelson has and when asked what drives the veteran politician, Robinson laughed. “He has a very thick skin.” But then in a more sobered analysis commented: “He does what he has to do and does it well.”

It is this tenacity that has once again catapulted Phillips to the best that he can be. Phillips was for 2015, nominated and given the prestigious Gleaner Honour Award for Public Service… “Man of the Year Award”. Now as we march stridently into 2017, we also await his ascendancy to the leadership of the PNP, a party he has devoted his entire life to, in service of our country Jamaica. His commitment to equality, equity and access for all is undeniable.

Read part two tomorrow..........Mr. Aldin Bellinfantie is a renowned educator and High School principal.

Last modified onSunday, 12 March 2017 16:55
  • Countries: Jamaica