CHAIR­MAN FOR LIFE!

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Er­ica Virtue Se­nior Gleaner Writer er­ica.virtue@glean­erjm.com

Robert ‘Bobby’ Pick­ers­gill, who has chaired the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) for nearly a quar­ter of a cen­tury, will be seek­ing re-elec­tion to­day for the po­si­tion which he de­scribes as the crown­ing achieve­ment of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

ROBERT ‘BOBBY’ Pick­ers­gill, who has chaired the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) for nearly a quar­ter of a cen­tury, will be seek­ing re-elec­tion to­day for the po­si­tion which he de­scribes as the crown­ing achieve­ment of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

His in­ten­tion to be re­turned is likely to frus­trate some of his col­leagues, in­clud­ing An­thony Hyl­ton and Fitz Jack­son, who have both in­di­cated an in­ter­est in the party’s sec­ond-high­est of­fice, when Pick­ers­gill steps down.

But the 73-year-old Pick­ers­gill last week told The Sun­day Gleaner that he is go­ing nowhere soon, even as he ad­mit­ted he is ap­proach­ing the end of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

“At this par­tic­u­lar time, it would be wrong for me to leave. Of course, I don’t in­tend to stay for the rest of my life. I am in the Septem­ber of my po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. I am aware of that. And I don’t want the party to come around and say ‘you must go’. I don’t want to leave like that,” said Pick­ers­gill.

“They have been gra­cious enough to call me lovely nick­names like ‘Chair­man for Life’ and ‘Per­ma­nent Chair­man’. It’s flat­ter­ing, but I am not go­ing to be one of those to over­stay my wel­come, and, in fact, right now, it is more invit­ing to be out than in, for rea­sons that I will not nec­es­sar­ily ex­plain,” added Pick­ers­gill.

ROLE OF CHAIR­MAN

The veteran Com­rade read from a PNP pub­li­ca­tion on the role of a chair­man as he ar­gued that he has done that job with dis­tinc­tion since as­sum­ing the po­si­tion in 1992, fol­low­ing the chang­ing of the party’s po­lit­i­cal guard from the Man­ley dy­nasty.

For Pick­ers­gill, be­ing PNP chair­man has been bet­ter than be­ing a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter.

“Bobby Pick­ers­gill would

be just an or­di­nary Ja­maican ci­ti­zen. But Bobby Pick­ers­gill, the chair­man of the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party, one of the old­est and most suc­cess­ful po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the hemi­sphere. Be­lieve me when I tell you I re­gard that much more im­por­tant than even be­ing a min­is­ter. And I have been a min­is­ter, one of the long­est-serv­ing min­is­ters in the his­tory of this coun­try.”

“Not that I don’t have re­gard for that (be­ing a min­is­ter), but all of my achieve­ments pale in com­par­i­son. I do not mean pale in sig­nif­i­cance, but I have as num­ber one be­ing chair­man of the great and noble Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party, be­cause of what it has done for me and what I think I owe the party to do,” de­clared Pick­ers­gill as he noted that he re­gards the PNP as his life.

“Apart from my par­ents, where I have reached in life is mainly due to the PNP. And I have said this on more than one oc­ca­sion, I owe (the PNP) more than it owes me,” added Pick­ers­gill.

Born in Claren­don in Fe­bru­ary 1943, Pick­ers­gill said if it wasn’t for the so­cial poli­cies of the PNP, which fo­cused on ed­u­ca­tion, he could

have be­come a ‘gate­man’ with nowhere else to go.

Pick­ers­gill’s as­cen­sion to the chair­man­ship came months af­ter the frac­tious and di­vi­sive pres­i­den­tial race in 1992 be­tween Por­tia Simp­son Miller and P.J. Pat­ter­son (for­mer PNP pres­i­dent and prime min­is­ter).

PEACE OF­FER­ING

At the time, Pick­ers­gill was con­sid­ered the peace of­fer­ing be­tween the two camps to heal the party of the po­lit­i­cal bruise it suf­fered dur­ing the cam­paign.

In his early years as chair­man, the PNP’s vis­i­bil­ity in the na­tional space con­tin­ued from the Michael Man­ley era with the party re­main­ing in power un­til 2007 when it suf­fered its first elec­toral loss in more than 20 years.

The man, who in his hey­day was con­sid­ered a nim­ble dancer and is still re­garded as a snazzy dresser, re­tained his po­si­tion af­ter an even more di­vi­sive pres­i­den­tial con­test in 2002 to re­place Pat­ter­son.

And he seems likely to be re­turned again to­day af­ter last week’s fee­ble pres­i­den­tial bid by Dr Karl Blythe.

Bobby’s dream job ...

FILE

PNP Chair­man Robert ‘Bobby’ Pick­ers­gill (cen­tre) flanked by his deputy, An­thony Hyl­ton (left), and Deputy Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Ju­lian Robin­son.

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