There has been a new development on the question of the planned televised political debates. These were, I believe, scheduled for February 17, 18 and 20 (including one leadership debate). Prior to previous general elections, the debates have had good viewership and have been generally welcomed by the Jamaican public. In fact, comments made during the last set of debates in 2011 are quite often referred to in various contexts. The debates are, in my view, an invaluable (if relatively recent) factor in our democratic process. They are taken seriously.
At around midday today, however, the People’s National Party (PNP) issued a lengthy Press Statement which may throw the debates in some doubt. We have not heard yet from the Jamaica Debates Commission. But my question is: If the PNP has so many issues with the Opposition Leader and his party – why not air these in a democratic debate before the Jamaican public, rather than via a press statement and threatened law suit?
FYI: The Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) is a partnership between the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and the Media Association Jamaica Limited. The JDC has organized and staged political debates in the general election cycles of 2002, 2007 and 2011, and first staged a local government debate in March 2012. The JDC has also provided technical support to debate-staging organizations in the English-speaking Caribbean and Haiti, as well as a range of countries on the African continent.
Here is the PNP’s statement, issued at lunchtime today (Thursday, February 11):
STATEMENT by The People’s National Party
Regarding Holness’ Integrity & Irresponsible Behaviour as Leader of the Opposition
February 11, 2016
The People’s National Party wishes to express its concern about a number of issues regarding the integrity of Andrew Holness, the Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party.
Holness referred to the recent unfortunate shooting incident at the JLP rally in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, Sunday, February 7, 2016, as “an act of terror.”
The Jamaica Constabulary Force has ruled out any outside forces being involved in the shooting that left three people dead. The evidence is that internal forces to the JLP were at war with each other.
Holness further termed the incident as a ” barefaced and heartless attack on the democratic process” of Jamaica.
These utterances by Holness have grave and serious implications for Jamaica especially in the regional and international community. If they were to believe Holness, that other than criminal elements internal to the JLP were involved, then Jamaica would be seen as a terrorist state.
We also note, that to date, Holness is yet to condemn the reckless and irresponsible utterances by JLP Chairman Robert Montague, who attempted to link Jamaica’s importation of oil with the terrorist organization ISIS.
We also note with alarm, Holness’ recent outbursts regarding Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, where he described her as “the biggest con artist” in Jamaica. This is a defamatory and disrespectful characterization of the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
If he describes the Prime Minister as “Jamaica’s biggest con artist” why should anyone wish the Prime Minister to have dialogue with him?
We call upon Mr. Holness to issue a public apology to the Prime Minister.
Construction of House
There are a number of questions that we would wish to have answered in relation to the property in Beverly Hills, St. Andrew, on which Andrew and Juliet Holness are constructing a house.
The PNP has nothing against anyone constructing and owning a big house. However, when you offer yourself to become Prime Minister there is a duty to be completely open and transparent when questions are being raised about assets owned by that person. This is an issue of integrity. This is our only interest.
We, therefore, demand answers to the following:
- Was the land on which the house is being constructed bought by him, for US$300,00.00 in 2011?
- How was this purchase and the construction of the house financed, recognizing that there is no mortgage registered on the title?
- Was the land bought by a company registered in St. Lucia?
- Is he, or was he ever, a director of that company?
- Who are, or were, the other directors and shareholders of the company?
- Is he still an active shareholder/director of the company?
- Is he, or has ever been in receipt of a salary, dividends, shares, bonus or any other perks from, or as a result of business done with, or by this company?
- Was the source of funds for the purchase of the land, and the cost of building the house included in any integrity report which all public officials are required to submit annually?
- If the answer to question 8 is yes, when was this done, and is Holness prepared to authorize the Integrity Commission to release the relevant information?
We note that Holness has promised to make a public declaration of his finances by the end of March 2016. This is after the elections. We call on Holness to make such declarations no later than seven days before the elections.
Holness is yet to 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. This is a matter of integrity.
The country will recall that the Court declared and ordered the following:
- That the request for and procurement of pre-signed and undated letters of resignation by the Leader of the Opposition from persons to be appointed as Senators to the Senate of Jamaica upon his nomination, is inconsistent with the Constitution, contrary to public policy, unlawful and is, accordingly, null and void.
- That the pre-signed and undated letter of resignation and letter of authorization, as well as the manner of their uses to effect the resignation of Senators…from the Senate of Jamaica, are inconsistent with the Constitution, contrary to public policy and are, accordingly, null and void.
Let us not forget that a very senior member of the JLP, Delroy Chuck, in light of the Order of the Court, correctly stated the following:
“In the Westminster System of Government, any constitutional office holder – be it Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Speaker of the House, Chief Justice, or others – who the Court rules or declares to act unlawfully and unconstitutionally would be obliged, in all good conscience and honour, to tender his or her resignation, unless there are good and compelling reasons not to do so.”
Holness has not provided any “good and compelling reasons” to do so.
Conviction in Qatar
We also recall Holness’ meeting in Jamaica last year, with a Jamaican who was arrested, tried and convicted for sexually molesting a minor in Qatar.
The issue of child abuse is a very serious matter. That is why we introduced the Child Care and Protection Act.
To date, Holness is yet to explain to the country, why he took the decision to meet formally with that person. This is a matter of integrity.
Speaking at the JLP rally in Sam Sharpe Square, on February 7, 2016, Holness declared that, if elected, he intends to put in further measures to ensure that only “members of unquestioned integrity” sit in Parliament. The PNP fully supports this position.
The question which Holness needs to answer, is whether or not, based on the issues we have raised regarding his own integrity, he is of “unquestioned integrity” to sit in Parliament?
Based on the issues we have raised, the PNP is not prepared to enter into any dialogue with the Jamaica Labour Party unless its Leader, Andrew Holness, fully and comprehensively respond to all the issues and questions we have raised.