Ju­lian in the hot seat

After years of ap­pren­tice­ship, Robin­son ready to lead sec­re­tariat of frac­tured PNP

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Erica.virtue@glean­erjm.com

JU­LIAN ROBIN­SON will not be the colour­ful and provoca­tive gen­eral sec­re­tary Don­ald Buchanan was. Nor is he a hot­shot busi­ness mag­nate like Peter Bunting; the chameleon-like Colin Camp­bell or the stub­bornly demo­cratic Paul Burke – four of the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party’s (PNP) gen­eral sec­re­taries in the last 15 years.

Even be­fore th­ese, the PNP had as gen­eral sec­re­taries the cold war re­quired Dr D.K. Dun­can; the po­lit­i­cal heavy­weight Dr Peter Phillips; the cal­cu­lat­ing Dr Paul Robert­son; po­lit­i­cally as­tute and man­age­rial Max­ine Henry-Wil­son; and the quiet and re­as­sur­ing Burchell White­man.

Robin­son, the new gen­eral sec­re­tary, brings a mix­ture of all th­ese char­ac­ters.

The Ox­ford Univer­sity-ed­u­cated Robin­son is rea­soned, non-tribal, non-con­tro­ver­sial, tech­nol­ogy savvy, qui­etly au­thor­i­ta­tive and un­der 50 years old. On Oc­to­ber 27, he will as­sume a crit­i­cal role in the 78year-old PNP – a party with ex­posed po­lit­i­cal sores, re­quir­ing heal­ing and fac­ing lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions.


He wants to fix things in his own way and time, and bring back the shine to the party which has been floun­der­ing since its Fe­bru­ary 25 gen­eral elec­tion de­feat.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a dream job,” Robin­son de­clared in an exclusive in­ter­view with The Sun­day Gleaner.

“Com­ing in at this time, which is a dif­fi­cult time in the evo­lu­tion of the party, we have just lost an elec­tion but this is how th­ese re­spon­si­bil­i­ties go, you don’t get them in per­fect times. You just have to adapt and do the best and build a team of per­sons who will sup­port the vi­sion you have and work to put the party back in the state all of us want it to be.”

Part of that vi­sion is aimed at se­ri­ous in­tro­spec­tion and re­turn­ing the party to its poli­cies and core val­ues.

“When I talk about mod­erni­sa­tion and re­newal, I de­fine it in three ways. First and very im­por­tant are the peo­ple. To me, your per­son­nel and your lead­er­ship should re­flect the pop­u­la­tion that ex­ists as best as pos­si­ble,” ex­plained Robin­son.

“Sec­ond, we need to im­prove the pro­cesses in how we do things. Sev­eral things need im­prov­ing, like build­ing a data­base of all our mem­bers, with their phone num­bers, emails, and so on. And when­ever we are hav­ing any­thing, we can send emails and texts to ev­ery­body. We can send out that mes­sage to 40,000 peo­ple. We have to use tech­nol­ogy to en­hance the com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Robin­son said he is head­ing back to the party’s roots, and that’s the third item on his agenda.

“The third thing is poli­cies. What is it that the PNP stands for? When some­one says they are a mem­ber of the PNP, what does that mean? There should be a set of val­ues that char­ac­terises some­one who says they are a mem­ber of the PNP.

“Val­ues based on ac­count­abil­ity and pro­bity, as well as what it does mean philo­soph­i­cally to be a Com­rade, and a mem­ber of the PNP. We are a demo­cratic so­cial­ist party. What are the things we are go­ing to stand for that are non-ne­go­tiable?” added Robin­son.

He ar­gued that a po­lit­i­cal party is de­fined by ed­u­ca­tion, be­cause that is the sin­gle most im­por­tant ve­hi­cle to so­cial mo­bil­ity.

“Peo­ple, pro­cesses and poli­cies – that is how I am defin­ing mod­erni­sa­tion,” he said.

Called on to au­thor the po­lit­i­cal party’s 2016 gen­eral elec­tions au­topsy re­port, Robin­son was ini­tially per­ceived as a fence sit­ter – not com­ing down

on any side. That is, un­til his re­port was done. In the doc­u­ment, Robin­son was di­rect and laid blame right, left and cen­tre.

Sud­denly, he was viewed in a dif­fer­ent light, bright enough to be con­sid­ered for the job of gen­eral sec­re­tary – new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that he shared will have an im­pact on his young fam­ily, and his equally busy banker wife, Mari­amme.

“This new job is go­ing to be more im­pact­ing on my fam­ily be­cause you are re­quired to be out there. If there is one thing about not be­ing in govern­ment that makes it eas­ier as a MP, it is that it al­lows me to spend time with my fam­ily. I get to spend time with my child. I take my child to school and pick him up,” he ex­plained.

The son of renowned Ja­maican and in­ter­na­tional ju­rist Pa­trick Robin­son, who cur­rently sits on the In­ter­na­tional Court of PNP gen­eral sec­re­tary-des­ig­nate Ju­lian Robin­son (cen­tre) in con­ver­sa­tion with se­nior party mem­bers, Dr Peter Phillips (left) and Phillip Paulwell.

Jus­tice at The Hague, Robin­son has man­aged to de­velop and main­tain a rep­u­ta­tion un­sul­lied by cor­rup­tion and ru­mours of cor­rup­tion.


It has en­deared him in the pub­lic space, and where per­cep­tion is con­cerned, he be­came the first MP to re­lease pri­vate fi­nan­cial de­tails of his wealth.

He holds a BSc in Man­age­ment and Eco­nom­ics from the Univer­sity of the West Indies, Mona. He also holds an MBA from the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Ur­bana-Cham­paign in the United States. He later worked as a man­age­ment and eBusi­ness con­sul­tant in Lon­don, at IBM, and Sci­ent.

“This is an­other op­por­tu­nity for me to serve. I have served the party in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways and my com­mit­ment is to serve my party and my coun­try. I have never been pre­oc­cu­pied with

po­si­tion. I have been deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary for the last 13 years and there have been many times when I have car­ried the weight of the work of the sec­re­tariat dur­ing that 13-year pe­riod. I have done it. I have been a coun­cil­lor can­di­date, MP, and I felt now was the right time to of­fer my­self as gen­eral sec­re­tary,” Robin­son ex­plained.

He con­tin­ued: “I still believe the PNP is the ve­hi­cle that pro­vides the best op­por­tu­nity to ful­fil dreams as a po­lit­i­cal move­ment. Apart from the in­volve­ment of my fam­ily, what at­tracted me was what Nor­man Man­ley said at the launch, that the PNP would be a class coali­tion, but the in­ter­est of the masses would pre­dom­i­nant.

“So at the heart of it, your ef­forts and your en­er­gies must be fo­cused on those who can least help them­selves. And that is what at­tracts me to this move­ment.”


Ju­lian Robin­son: Peo­ple, pro­cesses and poli­cies – that is how I am defin­ing mod­erni­sa­tion.

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