Jamaica pre-election debates off as ruling party holds out

portia-simpson-miller-and-andrew-holness

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and JLP leader Andrew Holness won’t go head-to-head in national debates after all.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday February 18, 2016 – The leaders of Jamaica’s two main opposition parties will not face off in national debates that were to be held before next Thursday’s general elections. The ruling People’s National Party (PNP) has decided it will not participate “at any level whatsoever”.

The party’s general secretary Paul Burke has written to the chairman of the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) Noel daCosta – ahead of this evening’s deadline by which both the PNP and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) were to respond about their participation – informing him of the decision.

In his letter, Burke stated that the PNP was sticking by its decision not to get involved, given that JLP leader Andrew Holness had not met the demands the party had outlined as conditions for its involvement in the debates.

The PNP had insisted that Holness publicly apologize for his “defamatory and disrespectful” characterization of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; answer questions in relation to his Beverly Hills, St. James property; publicly apologize for stating that the deadly shooting at a JLP mass rally on February 7 was an act of terror; condemn a statement made by JLP chairman Robert Montague, who the PNP said attempted to link Jamaica’s importation of oil with ISIS; and respond to the findings of the Supreme Court regarding his breach of the Constitution as it relates to pre-signed letters by two JLP senators.

Holness has refused to apologize, but on Tuesday he issued a full statement detailing how he funded the construction of his multi-million-dollar mansion.

Burke referred to Holness’ “attitude” and the PNP finding his answers to the integrity issues “lacking, unsatisfactory and not credible”, as among the party’s reason for holding out.

“After taking a number of factors into account and having given JLP Leader, Mr Andrew Holness, more than adequate time and opportunity to address the issues placed before him as conditions for the People’s National Party’s involvement in the National Debates, the People’s National Party has no other option, but to stand by its original position,” he wrote.

“But equally important . . . his obstinate refusal to do the right thing and apologize to the President of the People’s National Party and for his retraction and apology for his irresponsible and potentially dangerous statement at Sam Sharpe Square on Sunday, 7th February, leaves us with us with no other option, but to decline.”

“We will not compromise on our principles. We, therefore, will not be able to participate in the debates at any level whatsoever,” the letter ended.

But in a statement issued yesterday, Holness again accused the PNP of ducking from the debates and using “smoke and mirrors . . . to hide from the fact they have presided over a failed economy”.

“I am tired of them running away from the real issues facing Jamaicans. This is not a serious, issue-focused party. The PNP is out of ideas and not fit to lead. The truth of the matter is, I built my house, block by block with my own hands, and I am ready to rebuild the nation,” the JLP leader declared.

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