Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Gov’t wasting taxpayers’ money on by-election, says Phillips

Published:Monday | February 10, 2020 | 12:20 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer


Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ decision to call a by-election in the just-vacated seat of Clarendon South East has been criticised by Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips as a wanton waste of taxpayer funds.

Phillips, who is also president of the People’s National Party (PNP), made his address last Friday during a two-day bus tour in western Jamaica as the party ramped up its campaign nearly a year before a general election is constitutionally due.

Four-term JLP Member of Parliament Rudyard Spencer quit last Tuesday during a sitting of the House of Representatives, paving the way for his heir apparent, Pearnel Charles Jr.

Phillips re-emphasised that the PNP’s caretaker for Clarendon South East, Patricia Duncan Sutherland, would not be participating in the March 2 by-election as a matter of principle, charging that Charles’ fast track to representational politics was contrived out of a move to quell an internal row between the de jure minister of water and Parliamentary Secretary Robert Morgan, who has his eyes on replacing Pearnel Charles Sr.

Charles Sr represents the neighbouring Clarendon North Central.

The PNP president sought to drive home that the imminent by-election was a call on the Budget – of at least $20 million, according to Director of Elections Glasspole Brown, if an independent challenger arises – that was born out of a partisan whim.

“We need a government that does not treat your money as if it is their money, that does not treat the taxpayers with disrespect,” he said.

“Before this year is out, Jamaica will have a serious decision to make. The country needs a government that it can trust, a government that is competent, a government that is committed to people, and a government for the people.”

Citing police statistics, the PNP president slammed the Holness administration for the absence of a coherent crime plan, arguing that states of emergency (SOEs) had failed to have a broader impact on violence beyond their geographic boundaries. He drew on the spike in murders in January as an index of the impotence of the security crackdown, which is currently in force in almost half of the country’s police divisions. The poor, he said, were the chief victims pressured by the SOEs.

“We need a government that knows how to manage crime, and you need a government that you can trust,” Phillips said.

Between January 1 and February 6, 2020, murders have climbed approximately nine per cent, to 137, with the metro divisions, en bloc, recording the greatest increase.

There has been a more than 27 per cent aggregate jump in murders in the divisions covering Kingston, St Andrew, and St Catherine – from 66 to 84 – while rural police zones have shown a decline of nearly 12 per cent.

Eight of the 19 police divisions are under SOEs, with three under the security clampdown recording a year-on-year rise in murders.

Shootings nationwide are down more than 18 per cent.

Ex-cricketer Wavell Hinds was formally presented in Hopewell on Friday as the PNP’s caretaker candidate for Eastern Hanover.

The party’s bus tour incorporated candidate introductions across Westmoreland, St James, and Hanover.