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Jamaica: Pre-election Debates argument saga –

by STAFF WRITER

Ruling party sticks to its guns, no leadership debate

By Kathy Barrett

Prime Minister and Opposition Leader

Prime Minister and Opposition Leader

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 12, CMC – The ruling People’s National Party (PNP) Friday maintained its position that it would not participate in a leadership debate involving Opposition Leader Andrew Holness until he apologises for comments he made about Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

The debate being organised by the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) is scheduled for February 20, five days before the electorate go to the polls to elect a new government.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness

The decision by the PNP has drawn criticism from several quarters including the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and other political commentators, but PNP campaign director, Dr. Peter Phillips, who is also the Finance and Planning Minister, has brushed aside suggestions that the prime minister is afraid of debating Holness.

“The party leader has proven time and time again that not only she has the gift of the garb as you called it, but she has a particular turn of phrase which resonates with the Jamaica people,” Phillips told a news conference.

He said the PNP is rejecting the notion that political debates are the only avenue for the plans of the two main parties to be aired and there will be ample opportunities for Jamaicans to form an opinion about the proposed policies of  the political parties.

“It is not the case that only a 60 minute or 90 minute engagement on one evening will constitute the be all and end all as the only major way to measure the health of our democratic process,” he said.

“When we get answers to the questions that we have raised, we will consider participating in the specific debates that have been mooted,” Phillips said, adding that the PNP wanted Holness, the JLP leader to answer questions about his reported links to a firm in St Lucia and any payments that may have been made to him as a result.

The PNP is also demanding that Holness declare his finances no later than seven days before the elections.

Simpson Miller has accused the Opposition Leader of defaming her following comments he made on Nomination Day and has given a three-day deadline to apologise or face a lawsuit.

On Thursday, PNP General Secretary Paul Burke in a letter to the JDC said that the conduct of Holness was relevant and critical to the PNP’s participation in the debates.

In addition, the PNP said it also wants the 90-minute leadership debate, to be done in the town-hall format used for the Democratic Party presidential candidates in the United States. The JLP, on the other hand, has confirmed that it will accept the JDC’s proposal for the three debates, using the format that was used in 2011.

The proposed date for the other two debates are February 16 and 18.

But the JDC says it is not possible to meet the PNP’s demands as it could not get involved in the row between the two political parties, nor does it have enough time and resources to put the systems in to facilitate a town-hall debate.

JDC deputy chairman, Brian Schmidt, told reporters that the JDC “cannot adopt the US Democratic Party’s format for a town-hall debate this time. The US format includes a number of things that are uncommon in this market”.

He said that it would require identifying registered voters who are not members of either political party to ask questions, and that these individuals would have to be selected from specific geographical locations as well as screened for security purposes.

“Also, questions are sequestered for a certain amount of time before the debate to insulate them from what is happening in the public fora. It’s a much more involved process. It is the view of the JDC that this sort of approach and rigour is just not practical in the Jamaican context,” Schmidt stated.

JLP campaign spokesperson, Kamina Johnson- Smith said the PNP’s decision to pull out of the debate is probably not a spur of the moment action, “but a carefully orchestrated strategy to ensure that the PNP does not have to face the people of Jamaica.

“The JLP believes the government’s weak and inadequate excuses are an indication of their arrogance and the scant regard they have for the people of Jamaica,” she said, adding that the PNP is afraid that the JLP will expose the party’s lack of real progress and plans to grow the economy.

The National Democratic Movement (NDM) in a statement, Friday said that the PNP’s decision to withdraw from the national debates is an “insult to the people of Jamaica”.

It said none of the many campaign advertisements by both the PNP and JLP has addressed adequately the many national issues that Jamaicans need to be informed about including how to increase production, provide employment for young people as well as deal with a an “ economy…struggling to barely produce one per cent growth.

“The people of Jamaica have never been more unsecure. How to improve security? The Health Services are in a deplorable condition. How to improve the health sector? The Education system, especially Early Childhood is under performing. How to improve Education? The National Water system is delivering much less than adequate water. How to improve water distribution?,” the NDM asked.

“This is not the time for the PNP to refuse to address these national issues in a national debate, to inform The National Integrity Action (NIA) in condemning the decision of the PNP, said the concerns raised by the party should be directed to the Office of the Political Ombudsman and the Jamaican courts.

“The concerns raised by the People’s National Party regarding statements and utterances by the leader of the opposition are real and must be dealt with in the appropriate forum,” NIA executive director Professor Trevor Munroe, said in a statement.

“These concerns should not be used as a reason to deprive the Jamaican people of the opportunity to hear questions and answers regarding plans to ‘Step Up the Progress’ and concerning ‘The Path from Poverty to Prosperity’,” he added.

According to the NIA, the decision to stay away from the debates with the JLP runs contrary to both best practice and good democracy.

The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Friday expressed disappointment at the decision of the ruling party, saying “the election campaign is very short, which already limits the amount of time the public and media have to probe the positions of the individual candidates and their parties.

“To eliminate what has become an important source of information for the public would be a huge step backwards, and one we would condemn strongly,” said PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller.

The PAJ said it would be unacceptable in a modern Jamaican democracy for either of the parties to refuse the public the opportunity to see and hear its representatives questioned about issues of national importance.

It urged the two main political parties to find other avenues to work out their differences, and not use the political debates for that purpose.

“The Association strongly urges the People’s National Party, as the party which has not yet agreed to the debates, to do so in the national interest,” the PAJ said, commending the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) for its tremendous work over the years in staging the national political debates.

Opposition parties denounce ruling party’s decision to boycott debates

JPNP1-300x225KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 12, CMC – Opposition political parties contesting the February 25 general election have condemned the decision by the ruling People’s National party (PNP) not to participate in a leaders debate ahead of the polls.

PNP General Secretary Paul Burke in a letter to the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) said that the conduct of the leader of the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Andrew Holness was relevant and critical to the PNP’s participation in the debates.

The PNP has described as “irresponsible” statements made by Holness following the deaths of three people at the JLP’s rally on Sunday.

The police have since said that they do not regard the incident as being politically motivated.

In addition, the PNP said it also wants the 90-minute leadership debate, scheduled for February 20, to be done in the town-hall format used for the Democratic Party presidential candidates in the United States. The JLP, on the other hand, has confirmed that it will accept the JDC’s proposal for the three debates, using the format that was used in 2011.

The proposed date for the other two debates are February 16 and 18, when both sides would field questions about social issues and the economy.

But the JDC says it is not possible to meet the PNP’s demands as it could not get involved in the row between the two political parties, nor does it have enough time and resources to put the systems in to facilitate a town-hall debate.

JDC deputy chairman, Brian Schmidt, told reporters that the JDC “cannot adopt the US Democratic Party’s format for a town-hall debate this time. The US format includes a number of things that are uncommon in this market”.

He said that it would require identifying registered voters who are not members of either political party to ask questions, and that these individuals would have to be selected from specific geographical locations as well as screened for security purposes.

“Also, questions are sequestered for a certain amount of time before the debate to insulate them from what is happening in the public fora. It’s a much more involved process. It is the view of the JDC that this sort of approach and rigour is just not practical in the Jamaican context,” Schmidt stated.

JLP campaign spokesperson, Kamina Johnson- Smith said the PNP’s decision to pull out of the debate is probably not a spur of the moment action, “but a carefully orchestrated strategy to ensure that the PNP does not have to face the people of Jamaica.

“The JLP believes the government’s weak and inadequate excuses are an indication of their arrogance and the scant regard they have for the people of Jamaica,” she said, adding that the PNP is afraid that the JLP will expose the party’s lack of real progress and plans to grow the economy.

The National Democratic Movement (NDM) in a statement, Friday said that the PNP’s decision to withdraw from the national debates is an “insult to the people of Jamaica”.

It said none of the many campaign advertisements by both the PNP and JLP has addressed adequately the many national issues that Jamaicans need to be informed about including how to increase production, provide employment for young people as well as deal with a an “ economy…struggling to barely produce one per cent growth.

“The people of Jamaica have never been more unsecure. How to improve security? The Health Services are in a deplorable condition. How to improve the health sector? The Education system, especially Early Childhood is under performing. How to improve Education? The National Water system is delivering much less than adequate water. How to improve water distribution?,” the NDM asked.

“This is not the time for the PNP to refuse to address these national issues in a national debate, to inform Meanwhile, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has called on party supporters to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner and to avoid political violence and confrontations.

Addressing a PNP public meeting on Thursday night, Prime Minister Simpson Miller said Jamaicans should remember that they all had “a stake” in the country and its future.

She said that the February 25 polls will decide Jamaica’s future for “generations to come”, and urged supporters to turn out in their numbers to cast their ballots.

Media group urges ruling party to re-think position on leadership debate

by STAFF WRITER

Press Assoc JA - PAJ-300x199KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 12, CMC – The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Friday expressed disappointment at the decision of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) not to participate in the leaders debate schedule for February 20.

The decision of the PNP not to participate in the event ahead of the February 25 general election, has been criticised by the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and other opposition political groups here.

In a statement, the PAJ said that “the election campaign is very short, which already limits the amount of time the public and media have to probe the positions of the individual candidates and their parties.

“To eliminate what has become an important source of information for the public would be a huge step backwards, and one we would condemn strongly,” said PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller.

The PAJ said it would be unacceptable in a modern Jamaican democracy for either of the parties to refuse the public the opportunity to see and hear its representatives questioned about issues of national importance.

It urged the two main political parties to find other avenues to work out their differences, and not use the political debates for that purpose.

“The Association strongly urges the People’s National Party, as the party which has not yet agreed to the debates, to do so in the national interest,” the PAJ said, commending the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) for its tremendous work over the years in staging the national political debates.

The media group also called on all well-thinking Jamaicans and civil society organisations to speak out, and join the call to ensure that the National Political Debates are again held, as the public expects.

Meanwhile, the National Integrity Action (NIA) in condemning the decision of the PNP, said the concerns raised by the party should be directed to the Office of the Political Ombudsman and the Jamaican courts.

“The concerns raised by the People’s National Party regarding statements and utterances by the leader of the opposition are real and must be dealt with in the appropriate forum,” NIA executive director Professor Trevor Munroe, said in a statement.

“These concerns should not be used as a reason to deprive the Jamaican people of the opportunity to hear questions and answers regarding plans to ‘Step Up the Progress’ and concerning ‘The Path from Poverty to Prosperity’,” he added.

According to the NIA, the decision to stay away from the debates with the JLP runs contrary to both best practice and good democracy.

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

by STAFF WRITER

Ruling party sticks to its guns, no leadership debate

By Kathy Barrett

Prime Minister and Opposition Leader

Prime Minister and Opposition Leader

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 12, CMC – The ruling People’s National Party (PNP) Friday maintained its position that it would not participate in a leadership debate involving Opposition Leader Andrew Holness until he apologises for comments he made about Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

The debate being organised by the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) is scheduled for February 20, five days before the electorate go to the polls to elect a new government.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness

The decision by the PNP has drawn criticism from several quarters including the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and other political commentators, but PNP campaign director, Dr. Peter Phillips, who is also the Finance and Planning Minister, has brushed aside suggestions that the prime minister is afraid of debating Holness.

“The party leader has proven time and time again that not only she has the gift of the garb as you called it, but she has a particular turn of phrase which resonates with the Jamaica people,” Phillips told a news conference.

He said the PNP is rejecting the notion that political debates are the only avenue for the plans of the two main parties to be aired and there will be ample opportunities for Jamaicans to form an opinion about the proposed policies of  the political parties.

“It is not the case that only a 60 minute or 90 minute engagement on one evening will constitute the be all and end all as the only major way to measure the health of our democratic process,” he said.

“When we get answers to the questions that we have raised, we will consider participating in the specific debates that have been mooted,” Phillips said, adding that the PNP wanted Holness, the JLP leader to answer questions about his reported links to a firm in St Lucia and any payments that may have been made to him as a result.

The PNP is also demanding that Holness declare his finances no later than seven days before the elections.

Simpson Miller has accused the Opposition Leader of defaming her following comments he made on Nomination Day and has given a three-day deadline to apologise or face a lawsuit.

On Thursday, PNP General Secretary Paul Burke in a letter to the JDC said that the conduct of Holness was relevant and critical to the PNP’s participation in the debates.

In addition, the PNP said it also wants the 90-minute leadership debate, to be done in the town-hall format used for the Democratic Party presidential candidates in the United States. The JLP, on the other hand, has confirmed that it will accept the JDC’s proposal for the three debates, using the format that was used in 2011.

The proposed date for the other two debates are February 16 and 18.

But the JDC says it is not possible to meet the PNP’s demands as it could not get involved in the row between the two political parties, nor does it have enough time and resources to put the systems in to facilitate a town-hall debate.

JDC deputy chairman, Brian Schmidt, told reporters that the JDC “cannot adopt the US Democratic Party’s format for a town-hall debate this time. The US format includes a number of things that are uncommon in this market”.

He said that it would require identifying registered voters who are not members of either political party to ask questions, and that these individuals would have to be selected from specific geographical locations as well as screened for security purposes.

“Also, questions are sequestered for a certain amount of time before the debate to insulate them from what is happening in the public fora. It’s a much more involved process. It is the view of the JDC that this sort of approach and rigour is just not practical in the Jamaican context,” Schmidt stated.

JLP campaign spokesperson, Kamina Johnson- Smith said the PNP’s decision to pull out of the debate is probably not a spur of the moment action, “but a carefully orchestrated strategy to ensure that the PNP does not have to face the people of Jamaica.

“The JLP believes the government’s weak and inadequate excuses are an indication of their arrogance and the scant regard they have for the people of Jamaica,” she said, adding that the PNP is afraid that the JLP will expose the party’s lack of real progress and plans to grow the economy.

The National Democratic Movement (NDM) in a statement, Friday said that the PNP’s decision to withdraw from the national debates is an “insult to the people of Jamaica”.

It said none of the many campaign advertisements by both the PNP and JLP has addressed adequately the many national issues that Jamaicans need to be informed about including how to increase production, provide employment for young people as well as deal with a an “ economy…struggling to barely produce one per cent growth.

“The people of Jamaica have never been more unsecure. How to improve security? The Health Services are in a deplorable condition. How to improve the health sector? The Education system, especially Early Childhood is under performing. How to improve Education? The National Water system is delivering much less than adequate water. How to improve water distribution?,” the NDM asked.

“This is not the time for the PNP to refuse to address these national issues in a national debate, to inform The National Integrity Action (NIA) in condemning the decision of the PNP, said the concerns raised by the party should be directed to the Office of the Political Ombudsman and the Jamaican courts.

“The concerns raised by the People’s National Party regarding statements and utterances by the leader of the opposition are real and must be dealt with in the appropriate forum,” NIA executive director Professor Trevor Munroe, said in a statement.

“These concerns should not be used as a reason to deprive the Jamaican people of the opportunity to hear questions and answers regarding plans to ‘Step Up the Progress’ and concerning ‘The Path from Poverty to Prosperity’,” he added.

According to the NIA, the decision to stay away from the debates with the JLP runs contrary to both best practice and good democracy.

The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Friday expressed disappointment at the decision of the ruling party, saying “the election campaign is very short, which already limits the amount of time the public and media have to probe the positions of the individual candidates and their parties.

“To eliminate what has become an important source of information for the public would be a huge step backwards, and one we would condemn strongly,” said PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller.

The PAJ said it would be unacceptable in a modern Jamaican democracy for either of the parties to refuse the public the opportunity to see and hear its representatives questioned about issues of national importance.

It urged the two main political parties to find other avenues to work out their differences, and not use the political debates for that purpose.

“The Association strongly urges the People’s National Party, as the party which has not yet agreed to the debates, to do so in the national interest,” the PAJ said, commending the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) for its tremendous work over the years in staging the national political debates.

Opposition parties denounce ruling party’s decision to boycott debates

JPNP1-300x225KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 12, CMC – Opposition political parties contesting the February 25 general election have condemned the decision by the ruling People’s National party (PNP) not to participate in a leaders debate ahead of the polls.

PNP General Secretary Paul Burke in a letter to the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) said that the conduct of the leader of the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Andrew Holness was relevant and critical to the PNP’s participation in the debates.

The PNP has described as “irresponsible” statements made by Holness following the deaths of three people at the JLP’s rally on Sunday.

The police have since said that they do not regard the incident as being politically motivated.

In addition, the PNP said it also wants the 90-minute leadership debate, scheduled for February 20, to be done in the town-hall format used for the Democratic Party presidential candidates in the United States. The JLP, on the other hand, has confirmed that it will accept the JDC’s proposal for the three debates, using the format that was used in 2011.

The proposed date for the other two debates are February 16 and 18, when both sides would field questions about social issues and the economy.

But the JDC says it is not possible to meet the PNP’s demands as it could not get involved in the row between the two political parties, nor does it have enough time and resources to put the systems in to facilitate a town-hall debate.

JDC deputy chairman, Brian Schmidt, told reporters that the JDC “cannot adopt the US Democratic Party’s format for a town-hall debate this time. The US format includes a number of things that are uncommon in this market”.

He said that it would require identifying registered voters who are not members of either political party to ask questions, and that these individuals would have to be selected from specific geographical locations as well as screened for security purposes.

“Also, questions are sequestered for a certain amount of time before the debate to insulate them from what is happening in the public fora. It’s a much more involved process. It is the view of the JDC that this sort of approach and rigour is just not practical in the Jamaican context,” Schmidt stated.

JLP campaign spokesperson, Kamina Johnson- Smith said the PNP’s decision to pull out of the debate is probably not a spur of the moment action, “but a carefully orchestrated strategy to ensure that the PNP does not have to face the people of Jamaica.

“The JLP believes the government’s weak and inadequate excuses are an indication of their arrogance and the scant regard they have for the people of Jamaica,” she said, adding that the PNP is afraid that the JLP will expose the party’s lack of real progress and plans to grow the economy.

The National Democratic Movement (NDM) in a statement, Friday said that the PNP’s decision to withdraw from the national debates is an “insult to the people of Jamaica”.

It said none of the many campaign advertisements by both the PNP and JLP has addressed adequately the many national issues that Jamaicans need to be informed about including how to increase production, provide employment for young people as well as deal with a an “ economy…struggling to barely produce one per cent growth.

“The people of Jamaica have never been more unsecure. How to improve security? The Health Services are in a deplorable condition. How to improve the health sector? The Education system, especially Early Childhood is under performing. How to improve Education? The National Water system is delivering much less than adequate water. How to improve water distribution?,” the NDM asked.

“This is not the time for the PNP to refuse to address these national issues in a national debate, to inform Meanwhile, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has called on party supporters to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner and to avoid political violence and confrontations.

Addressing a PNP public meeting on Thursday night, Prime Minister Simpson Miller said Jamaicans should remember that they all had “a stake” in the country and its future.

She said that the February 25 polls will decide Jamaica’s future for “generations to come”, and urged supporters to turn out in their numbers to cast their ballots.

Media group urges ruling party to re-think position on leadership debate

by STAFF WRITER

Press Assoc JA - PAJ-300x199KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 12, CMC – The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Friday expressed disappointment at the decision of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) not to participate in the leaders debate schedule for February 20.

The decision of the PNP not to participate in the event ahead of the February 25 general election, has been criticised by the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and other opposition political groups here.

In a statement, the PAJ said that “the election campaign is very short, which already limits the amount of time the public and media have to probe the positions of the individual candidates and their parties.

“To eliminate what has become an important source of information for the public would be a huge step backwards, and one we would condemn strongly,” said PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller.

The PAJ said it would be unacceptable in a modern Jamaican democracy for either of the parties to refuse the public the opportunity to see and hear its representatives questioned about issues of national importance.

It urged the two main political parties to find other avenues to work out their differences, and not use the political debates for that purpose.

“The Association strongly urges the People’s National Party, as the party which has not yet agreed to the debates, to do so in the national interest,” the PAJ said, commending the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) for its tremendous work over the years in staging the national political debates.

The media group also called on all well-thinking Jamaicans and civil society organisations to speak out, and join the call to ensure that the National Political Debates are again held, as the public expects.

Meanwhile, the National Integrity Action (NIA) in condemning the decision of the PNP, said the concerns raised by the party should be directed to the Office of the Political Ombudsman and the Jamaican courts.

“The concerns raised by the People’s National Party regarding statements and utterances by the leader of the opposition are real and must be dealt with in the appropriate forum,” NIA executive director Professor Trevor Munroe, said in a statement.

“These concerns should not be used as a reason to deprive the Jamaican people of the opportunity to hear questions and answers regarding plans to ‘Step Up the Progress’ and concerning ‘The Path from Poverty to Prosperity’,” he added.

According to the NIA, the decision to stay away from the debates with the JLP runs contrary to both best practice and good democracy.