Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Mark Wignall | Understanding PNPYO’s stance

Published:Sunday | September 20, 2020 | 6:32 AM

Krystal Tomlinson, president of PNPYO.
Krystal Tomlinson, president of PNPYO.
Toots Hibbert
Toots Hibbert

Last Monday, Nationwide News reported on a letter from the PNP Youth Organisation to People’s National Party (PNP) president Dr Peter Phillips giving him 30 days to walk away from his political leadership of the PNP. It was also reported that the letter, which was leaked to the press, was in draft form.

I have one main disagreement with the letter, which was penned by its president, Krystal Tomlinson. And that is, her recommending a slate of PNP Senate candidates, including herself. That part of the letter, which we are urged to believe is just a draft and was probably leaked via a gust of wind still blowing from Belmont Road, is plain mindlessness.

The gist of the letter almost perfectly captures the public perception of the party: a leadership terribly out of touch with the people, a need for its reformation, and also a 360- degree assessment of the organisation.

Most political pundits have poured cold water on the letter, strangely leaked, by mainly saying that the youth arm of the PNP had abdicated its duty to respect its elders and probably deserves an early visit to the archives of history. I see it differently.

In both the PNP and the Jamaica Labour Party, there have been youth arms that have flexed their muscles, growled at their leadership but backed down just as the surrogates of the leadership pushed back quite strongly. Most of those making up the veteran component in the politics parties were once impatient rabble-rousers just as long as the noise of the small market was not transmitted to the ears of the leader.

That fear of the leadership pushback is seen to be the ‘steady hand’ that inhibits revolt in the parties. Indeed, it is even seen as recommended that the leadership of both political parties occupy zones of political exclusion, where loyalists are prepared to lean hard on others so that a point is driven home.

Over time, we the people who say we desire political parties that are constantly in renewal have seen the youth arms of the political parties becoming mere clones of their elders, and in that, we have settled for leadership and governmental incrementalism for the last 50-plus years.

So, if a government in its first term has just merely occupied its winning slots, we convince ourselves that it needs another term to get it right. And the terms add up, and the development of the nation is measured by how much grey there is in our hair.


The very fact that more than a few political pundits have rapped the PNPYO for its rumps indicates to me that at times, we err in giving more importance to form over function. I say this because the letter to the PNP president captures what the nation knew more than a year ago.

The Nationwide article said of Ms Tomlinson, the PNPYO president, “Ms Tomlinson says before they return to the nation, it must change the script, cast, and production team or else squander a perfect opportunity for redemption. She says the PNPYO witnessed first hand the critical failures in the party’s machinery that limited its capacity to mobilise even its traditional bloc of voters.”

I can well appreciate that in an institution like a political party, if no leadership protocol is maintained, and that is encouraged, it may eventually spill over into degraded governmental discourse and devolve into social and political disorder.

But let us not forget that the PNP leadership saw the writing on the wall for, at the very least, one year ago. It saw the leadership as deadweight and pretended that it did not exist. Now that the youth arm has responded publicly, albeit in trying to ram home its point, more than a few of us want to take the PNPYO for a thrashing in the banana walk.


Sometimes we forget that at the heart of every country’s constitution that itemises our rights and passages we must take to protect those rights, nothing would make sense if in the end, the pursuit of happiness is not the ultimate desire.

Where governments mainly fail at this from year to year, the people seek their immediate happiness in music. The first time I saw Toots Hibbert was in the early 1970s when he used to perform regularly at a club called Stables on Red Hills Road.

If my memory serves me right, that club also hosted a little band headed by Lloyd Parkes, which would go on to earn high ratings here and abroad.

Toots was the immediate pain reliever for feeling poor and down. Each time he took the stage in the small club, one was immediately transported inside a capsule to a land of frenzied and unadulterated happiness. Nothing really mattered when he captured the stage and had you captivated.

I can remember him performing Never you Change when I was 22 years old. I was at the club with my wife to be, and as he performed and we found it impossible to occupy our chairs, after we had lost ourselves in the haunting pulse of the magical ska beat, the lady could not find one foot of her shoes.

We laud our musicians not simply because they attained greatness here and in the international arena. We do it because they add to our quality of life. A man may have $50 million at his disposal, a comfortable home draped in cool mountain fog in the morning, and a family that makes his life a safe circle of happiness, and, sometimes it is that music coming to him out of the speakers that caps it all.

Marley does that to me and so does Toots. I was 16 when he did, with the Maytals, Bam Bam, our first Festival song winner. I never really cared to understand the song. Too much time was spent simply enjoying it and every other song Toots did.

Geologists of note and great cosmologists advance our understanding of the place we occupy in the universe. Singers like Toots make it sweet and dandy.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to and