Elect a general secretary who’s not an MP, Burke cautions PNP

Elect a general secretary who’s not an MP, Burke cautions PNP

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 20, 2020

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FORMER general secretary of the People’s National Party (PNP) Paul Burke is cautioning against selecting a member for the role who is otherwise engaged in constituency activities, as the organisation readies itself for local government election.

Burke’s comment comes ahead of this month end’s expected elections to replace outgoing General Secretary Julian Robinson and Chairman Fitz Jackson.

At least three people have expressed an interest in Robinson’s post, with Dr Dayton Campbell, who failed in his bid for a third parliamentary term in St Ann North Western, emerging as the front-runner.

Raymond Pryce and Deputy General Secretary Basil Waite are the other two interested parties. Both also failed to reach the House of Representatives in the September 3, 2020 General Election.

Burke — who presided over the party’s surprise defeat in the 2016 General Election alongside then PNP President Portia Simpson Miller — has concluded that the position requires the undivided attention of the occupier.

“I’m totally in support of the general secretary not being a Member of Parliament (MP). It is something that the party has said repeatedly. It is something that is in the appraisal committee report. It is something that we have always said should be,” said Burke who, while he served as general secretary was not an MP.

It is a formula that the party has adopted in the past and which saw political heavyweights, such as Maxine Henry Wilson, Colin Campbell, and Burchell Whiteman serving in the post while not being in the Parliament during their tenures.

“It’s one thing when you’re in Government and you have that kind of support apparatus. I’m not talking about the government apparatus. It means that you have the majority MPs and you have that kind of political authority. But our climb now is from 14 up; not from 29 up as it was a year ago. It’s from 14 constituencies, and whoever is the general secretary has to extend full and focused time to that job only, in my view,” Burke said during an interview with the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday.

“If you have a constituency, I can tell you it takes a lot to service a constituency, particularly with an electorate who is more demanding and with our natural base going down as we have seen in each and every PNP constituency,” he added.

Burke said electing a general secretary who is otherwise engaged would not only be a “wrong move” but a “terrible” one.

“You can’t do both properly. It’s just impossible,” said Burke.

The PNP National Executive Council is expected to decide on the general secretary during a meeting on November 29.

See related story:

PNP PICKLE – Opposition in turmoil over who should be its next chairman, general secretary

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