‘The party is NOT government’

‘I have the honour to inform you that you’ve been nominated for a special award in recognition of your contribution to the People’s National Party, PNP, in its pursuit of its vision over the past 75 year’ read the first paragraph of a September 10, 2013 letter to Dr. Herbert Thompson, Chairman (now former Chairman) of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.

The letter was sent over the signature of Burchell Whiteman, Chairman of the Awards Committee of the PNP. 

This letter was not the reason for the calamity that has befallen Dr. Herbert Thompson.

The second paragraph of the letter stated ‘should you indicate your acceptance of this award…it will be presented to you on Tuesday, September 17, 2013…’ This sentence should have been used by Dr. Thompson as an out. He should have replied with a letter to the PNP to the effect that  – ‘regrettably I cannot in my capacity as Chairman of the ECJ accept any such award from a political party. I would be more comfortable if the wording of this letter could be re-worked and that the government of Jamaica be the entity commending the ECJ and bestow such an honour’.

I understand Mr. Whiteman to have said that he takes full responsibility for the clumsy wording of the letter to Dr. Thompson and that the letter was meant for the ECJ and not Dr. Thompson. I hold great respect for Mr. Whiteman and hesitate to severely scrutinize his words as I believe he is one of few who deserve the label ‘elder statesman’.

However, Mr. Whiteman in my view, pays too much attention to detail for the September 10 letter to have been dispatched over his signature with such inaccuracies in what it actually intended and what it said.

What work has Dr. Thompson done in building the PNP?

Is he a member of the party?

If he is not a member, has the PNP honoured any other non-member for either contribution to the party or to nation building over the years?

Why was the error picked up only after the award was granted and concerns raised?

The former Prime Minister in his preference to being called former President of the PNP on Sunday at the 75th conference told comrades, ‘the party is not the government’. 

Parties must honour people for actions benefiting the parties and leave national honours for the government. We suffer greatly when the lines between government and party are blurred. Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s script should be mandatory script for our consumption.

Dr. Thompson’s resignation is a week late but welcomed by me.


About emilyshields

Attorney-at-Law, Partner -Gifford Thompson & Shields; Broadcast Journalist; Host of RJR's Hotline - www.rjr94fm.com; Gunner Twitter- @emilymshields
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