KINGSTON – Jamaica’s opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has welcomed a new leader who says topping his priorities is a plan to enlist young people to fight against poverty and other woes holding back the country.
“There is still more to be done,” Dr Peter Phillips declared, as he rallied the support of thousands who packed the National Arena to witness the historic changing of the guard on Sunday night.
He told the pumped up crowd that the PNP had to be at the forefront of transforming the lives of citizens and he invited all hands on deck, especially the youth.
“Today, I issue an invitation from this platform . . . . Now is the time to join the People’s National Party. Come and join us so we can move forward. Now, more than ever, Jamaica needs a strong People’s National Party. We need new blood in the party – the students, the farmers, the businessmen, the workers, the professionals, the teachers, the doctors, the nurses, the accountants, the lawyers, the artistes, the entertainers, the taxi men, the unemployed, the juice man, the sno cone man, the vendor, and the higgler . . . . There is a place for everyone in this People’s National Party,” Phillips declared.
On a night of raw emotion, camaraderie, and reflection in a party-like atmosphere, the PNP reluctantly said goodbye to long-standing member and party president Portia Simpson-Miller – Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister – even as it expectantly handed over the baton to Phillips.
An emotional “Sista P”, as Simpson-Miller is fondly called, could not hold back her usual showering of kisses and hugs as she thanked colleagues and party members for their support throughout her career in the 78-year-old party.
In a presentation punctuated by songs that included Tina’s Turner’s Simply the Best and Beres Hammond’s No Goodbye, 71-year-old Simpson-Miller, who has served the party for more than four decades, said it was a memorable journey.
“Together we have stood on the battlefield, together we have faced the pain of defeat, together we have savoured the sweet taste of victory, together we have walked through the valleys, together we have stood on the mountain top,” said Simpson-Miller, before the crowd belted out Kenny Rogers’ Write Your Name Across my Heart.
And when she told supporters how proud she was to have served them as president for 11 years, the DJ whipped up even more emotion as he played She’s Still Loving Me by Morgan Heritage.
Simpson-Miller especially urged party members to support Phillips.
“I speak with pride today as we witness this smooth transition from one leader of the People’s National Party to another,” she said, before Ken Boothe’s Everything I Own got comrades on their feet.
Promising to “never forget” her people, Simpson-Miller, with tears in her yes, ended on a high to the songs I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston.