Phillips challenges Portia in Ja

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Peter Phillips Sunday night confirmed he would make a second bid for the presidency of the People’s National Party, telling an enthusiastic crowd he has what it takes to return the party to its socialist roots.

Phillips, member of parliament for East Central St Andrew, will challenge current President Portia Simpson Miller during the PNP’s annual conference in September.

“In response to the demands of thousands of Comrades at all levels of the party and the demands of citizens across the length and breadth of Jamaica who have asked that I accept your nomination to lead this process of renewal, my answer is a resounding yes,” said Phillips to deafening applause at the Harbour View Primary School in St Andrew.

Simpson Miller defeated Phillips by just over 200 votes to win the presidency in a bitter presidential election on February 25, 2006.

In a stirring speech, Phillips criticised the government of Prime Minister Bruce Golding, saying it had failed to deliver on election promises to reduce crime and create more jobs.

But he also admonished the PNP for abandoning the grass-roots principles of founding father Norman Manley, and his son Michael, the country’s populist prime minister from 1972-1980.

He said the PNP, now more than ever, needed an inspirational leader.

“We need a PNP which is united once again, we need a People’s National Party that recognises the value of the grass-roots workers and organisers,” said an animated Phillips. “Time is too short and the crisis is too great for us to fool around any longer with the old politics of division and backbiting.”

There had been speculation for months now that Phillips – who served in three ministerial posts under P.J. Patterson and Simpson Miller – would declare a challenge.

A full house turned out in the East Rural St Andrew constituency to hear his announcement.

MP for South East St Andrew Maxine Henry-Wilson, South Central St Catherine MP Sharon Hay-Webster, South St Catherine MP Fitz Jackson and long-time PNP organiser Kenneth ‘Skeng Don’ Black were among those who backed Phillips’ candidacy.

Last night, PNP General Secretary Peter Bunting said this was “uncharted waters” for the PNP as a sitting president had never been challenged.

But he said the party welcomed the continuation of democracy.

Bunting also said the party’s secretariat would ensure that the integrity of the organisation was maintained.

He also said Phillips’ announce-ment ahead of the August 4 deadline would allow for adequate planning for the party’s annual conference in September.

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