The recent publication in the daily of comments by party members prompts me to remind all that the Party Chairman and P.R.O. are persons constitutionally authorized to speak on behalf of the Party.
We have achieved a sufficient level of political maturity to encourage a diversity of views and opinions. and a forum for the expression of those views and opinions is available within the Party. It is distressing when comments are instead published in the daily which may be misrepresented or misunderstood and could possibly sow the seeds of dissent within our ranks
Please use the internal resources available to you for the expression of views and if you feel there are deficiencies the executive and C.C. can remediate.
The articles in the media, and ensuing discussion on it at least on the BIAW forum, has mostly viewed this email as an attempt by the PLP to stifle free speech and diversity of opinion within the Party. This view would appear to be reinforced by various PLPers, mostly anomynous, who were quoted in the papers reacting to questions about the email.
I recieved the email on January the twelfth, as did everyone else on the mailing list. I did not see it as an attempt to stifle free speech at all. I saw the email as a direct response to Mr. Rolfe Commissiong’s comments in the paper concerning his personal views on Mr. Dale Butler’s chances in a PLP leadership competition.
As part of Mr. Commissiong’s personal appraisal he argued that Mr. Butler’s support for amending the HR Act to include sexual orientation may be unpopular within the Party, and some may see it as part of a ‘gay rights agenda’ conspiracy. Mr. Commissiong also voiced some criticism of Mr. Butler’s view on racial reconciliation. While I read Mr. Commissiong’s comments as his own personal views it soon became apparent that many (predominantly those opposed to the PLP) saw these comments (on amending the HR Act and approaches to race) as the PLP party line, and began criticising the PLP for being homophobic and racially divisive.
It was in this context that I saw Chairman Santucci’s email; he was neither criticising or supporting Mr. Commissiong’s (or Mr. Butler’s) positions, only attempting to stress that when speaking to the media members should make it explicit that they are not speaking for the Party but rather their own views.
While it was obvious to me that Mr. Commissiong was only speaking for himself, I can see how others (particularly those with their own filters) would confuse them with the party line as long as there was no explicit statement from Mr. Commissiong that he was speaking in a personal capacity.
This understanding of mine was reinforced by a follow-up comment by Chairman Santucci when he sought to clarify the misunderstanding, stating that:
“As long as it is made clear that they are speaking in a personal capacity we have no objection.”
So, to the question ‘Is the PLP silencing dissent?’ my answer is ‘no it is not’, and I certainly did not regard the email by Chairman Santucci as even implying such. Of course there are those, both within and without the Party (but mostly without), who have a vested interest in pursuing the PLP as totalitarian, either due to their opposition to the Party or opposition to Dr. Brown as leader.
I would like to encourage fellow PLP supporters (and especially members) to take the comments by former Senator Davida Morris as guidelines, that constructive criticism should be encouraged. Feel free to criticise the Party with an aim to helping it to be better (and in the very process of engaging in constructive criticism you do so).
Just make it clear that you are speaking in your own capacity, not the Party, as only the PRO or other elected officials of the Party can do so. Its simple. And its not silencing dissent. Its just about clarity. Nothing more and nothing less.