People’s National Party (PNP) has issued a statement on Thursday informing the chairman of the Jamaica Debates Commission, Noel daCosta, that the PNP will not participate in the three National debates with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) prior to the upcoming general election on February 25.
The National debate which should be staged between Nomination Day (February 9) and Election Day (February 25) would be on social issues and economic issues. The PNP leader Portia Simpson-Miller and leader of the JLP Andrew Holness will then square off in a head-to-head leadership debate.
In a letter to daCosta, PNP’s General Secretary Paul Burke says unless Holness takes certain actions, which were communicated to him today by Portia Simpson Miller’s attorney. Bruke also suggests that the format of the leadership debate be changed to one similar to recent town hall-type debates conducted by the Democratic Party candidates in the United States
In the letter to Holness, Simpson Miller’s attorney, Bert Samuels, is demanding: “… a suitably worded apology, approved by our client be published on Television Jamaica, in the Jamaica Observer and The Gleaner and that our client be paid damages commensurate with her station in life locally and internationally, along with his (her attorney) legal costs.”
Holness has been given three days to respond to the letter, stating his intent to enter negotiations. The letter also stated that the apology, when issued, will not automatically absolve Holness from an obligation to pay damages to Simpson Miller.
The Opposition leader allegedly used the term “con artist” in his response to a question during an interview with the media on Nomination Day.
In the statement issued by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Holness alleges that based on information the Opposition has received, Simpson Miller is “trying to create a reason to say she will not participate in the national leadership debate”.
Holness said: “We will not be distracted. The people of Jamaica want to hear from those seeking to lead the country. They want to hear from us on our plans and other issues of national importance. They want to make a comparison.”
Before all situation mentioned above, on February 9, the JLP wrote to the Debate Commission questioning why PNP has not signed off on the Election debate. The proposed dates are February 16, 18, and 20. Both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Jamaica Debates Commission on November agreeing to that the three will be three political debates.
Jamaicans have been demanding a fixed election date. How can a party dictate to the Jamaica Debates Commission the format of the debate or allowed not to participate? National leadership debates should be mandatory. A National debate before a general election helps Jamaicans to make an informed decision at the polls. The people of Jamaica needs to know what both parties have planned for the country.
This suggests that the PNP has no respect for the Jamaican people. It is boorish of the PNP to weasel out of a debate by creating these silly distractions.