Tuesday, 05 September 2023 10:46

Comrades, friends pour hearts out in tributes to Phillips

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Mikael Phillips (right), member of parliament for Manchester North Western, welcomes his father, Dr Peter Phillips, former president of the People’s National Party, to the podium at the East Central St Andrew Annual Constituency Conference at Jacisera Park. Mikael Phillips (right), member of parliament for Manchester North Western, welcomes his father, Dr Peter Phillips, former president of the People’s National Party, to the podium at the East Central St Andrew Annual Constituency Conference at Jacisera Park.

It was a bittersweet send-off on Sunday for Dr Peter Phillips in the constituency of East Central St Andrew, which he has anchored for the past 29 years.

Phillips resigned as constituency chairman for East Central St Andrew in February 2021. Following his decision, Dennis Gordon, councillor for the Maxfield division, was unanimously elected by the executive as the new chairman of the constituency.

Looking on from the seated comrades at East Central St Andrew’s Annual Constituency Conference on Sunday at Jacisera Park, one would witness Phillips trying his utmost to remain composed as many of his colleagues from both Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean saluted him in tribute for making significant contributions and strides in the development of not only the constituency, but the nation at large.

In May, the former leader of the Opposition signalled his intention to vacate the seat by the next general election, and handed over the party’s political leadership of the constituency to Gordon during a ceremony at the Norman Manley High School.

Gordon was also selected by the party’s delegates and can only become member of parliament when the constituency goes to the polls in either a by-election or general election.

Dr Ernest Hilaire, deputy prime minister of St Lucia, who was guest speaker at the event, said he, St Lucia Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre and former leader of the St Lucia Labour Party, Dr Kenny Anthony, all have the highest regard for Phillips.

Hilaire said he was bringing greetings and best wishes from Pierre and Anthony.

“I have no doubt that you all agree that he has been a Caribbean man, a patriot, a regionalist, a servant leader, a warrior, a defender of the people of Jamaica. There is no doubt, from listening to everyone, that he has served with distinction. He has served with honour. He has served with integrity and Jamaica will not forget him,” Hilaire said.

“Never forget him,” he added.

Hilaire said that, when the history of Jamaica is written, Phillips’ name would be etched in those books for the contributions he made.

He also argued that it was notable that Phillip’s son, Mikael Phillips, has followed in his father’s footsteps in politics.

“He introduced me to his son, and it is said that imitation is the best form of flattery, and his son is imitating him. He’s following his footsteps, and that tells you what his own family thinks of him, that he’s a great man. He’s a man to be proud of and he’s a man to emulate, and that says a lot that, when your own children say ‘I want to be like my father’, it tells you you got the right things in life,” he said.

Mottley pays tribute

Also offering tribute from the Caribbean region, through video, was Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, who also referred to the integrity of Phillips and said she admired the fact that his exemplary lifestyle made his son choose to follow him into politics.

“I guess you did real well, because your son chose to follow you, and that is perhaps the truest form of congratulations and flattery; that he is following your journey. And, while you may be retiring from active politics, I have no doubt that your wisdom and insights will be sought after in years to come, not just in Jamaica, but from across this region,” Mottley said.

“Your contributions have shaped the destiny of your country; our region, and, my friend, as you embark on this new chapter, I most of all wish you a healthy retirement, a lot of well-deserved rest, a lot of joy, and indeed continued success in whatever, whatever you choose to do,” she said.

Also offering tribute were PNP President Mark Golding; Dayton Campbell, the party’s general secretary; Angela Brown Burke, member of parliament (MP) for St Andrew South West; Julian Robinson, MP for St Andrew South Eastern; Phillip Paulwell, MP for Kingston East and Port Royal; Dr Morais Guy, MP for St Mary Central, and Gordon.

For his part, Golding said it was a special conference for Phillips, someone he has worked closely with and for whom he had developed a tremendous regard.

“Politics is a strange business and things don’t always work out as they should and as people expect,” said Golding.

“But, one thing I know for sure is that, when the history of the current period of Jamaica is written, your name will stand tall among all as somebody who made a huge difference to the future of this country,” he added to cheers from the crowd.

Golding said Phillips distinguished himself as a government minister in many portfolios, including health, transport, as well as finance and planning, and helped the country soar during trying times for the nation.

“My close knowledge of you was when you were minister of finance and planning in the last PNP administration. And it was a time when Jamaica had been dark with chronic debt problems for decades, and where the public debt had been run up under the previous JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) administration to unprecedented levels over the last few decades, and where,when we came to office, the situation was so bad, that the basic bills of the Government had to be financed by the Bank of Jamaica, essentially printing money, and that was a slippery slope,” he said.

With bad standing with the international financial community and with the crashing of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme that was signed off on by the Bruce Golding administration, no IMF tests being taken and Jamaica’s name in mud in Washington, DC, he said Phillips invested a year of hard work to build back the relationships that allowed the country to go back into a very challenging programme, in which most persons thought Jamaica would not have been able to succeed.

“The requirements were so onerous and you steered the ship of finance with tremendous astuteness, with a certain understanding of the power dynamics of the country ... and, through the deftness with which you handled that portfolio, Jamaica passed every IMF test under your watch. And by the time we demitted office in 2016, the public debt had been taken from 147 per cent of GDP to 115 per cent and was on a clear pathway towards sustainability,” he said.

‘Let us move on’

Campbell, on the other hand, touched on the past where he and Phillips saw things differently, but said he was glad they have overcome that past and moved on.

“Being in politics is rough, because it is something that is cut and thrust and sometimes people a fling things at you and all type of things happen, and, to be truthful, Comrade Dr Phillips, I have said it every single time that I myself did throw one and two things side yu and mi nah mek yu lef without saying it. So, if I throwing dem one and two things it was most undeserving, and you are a big man, and we have spoken and we have put that behind us and we have moved on, and you who out de weh have it up fi put it dung, ‘cause him to put it dung and let us move on and build the People’s National Party,” Campbell said.

“Being in politics is difficult. As much as persons think that it is just being in the spotlight and you are always out there, being in politics is difficult. It requires tremendous sacrifice. Sacrifice of family. You don’t get to spend the time with your children. You don’t get to grow them the way that you would want to. You have to make a sacrifice to serve, and Dr Phillips made that sacrifice,” he said.