Sat | Sep 23, 2017

PNP tek wi fi eediat

Published:Friday | February 19, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Olive Nelson

The propensity of our politicians to tek people fi eediat is pathetic.

The People's National Party (PNP) has decided to renege on a non-binding agreement reportedly reached with the Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) in November 2015. The party curiously maintains that it has changed its mind on principle.

In a statement dated February 11, 2016, and published in The Sunday Gleaner of February 14, the PNP declares "regarding Holness as leader of the Opposition" that "if he describes the prime minister as 'Jamaica's biggest con artist', why should anyone wish the prime minister to have dialogue with him?" It was one of the arguments proffered by the party for not being "prepared to enter into any dialogue with the Jamaica Labour Party".

But the PNP has got it all wrong! That party is not being asked to have dialogue with the JLP or Mr Holness at all. The party is being asked, and had agreed, to participate in a national debate in which the leader of the Opposition would be one of the participants. The traditional format is that debaters from opposing sides are questioned by media personnel. It is on their responses to the media questions that the public relies for information and not on any dialogue between party representatives. The debaters are not required to speak to each other during the process, and, therefore, need not be on speaking terms with one another.

Any contrived falling out between the parties, however earth-shaking, should not be allowed to defeat the right of an electorate to witness first hand, not just what a party declares its vision to be, but how that vision stands up to scrutiny - a process that, in the time allowed, is best facilitated in a debate setting.

The decision taken by the PNP to withdraw from the process has nothing to do with Andrew's big house or the quality of his banter on the hustings. The house was very much in existence when the party agreed to the debates in November, and political banter (an abiding feature of political campaign trails everywhere) was also very much in vogue here at that time and all the time.

The attempt to elevate Mr Holness' latest comments to a more serious level has done some damage to the credibility of the PNP and begs the question, "Why?" Were Mr Holness to meet all the conditions imposed on him by the PNP for the privilege of meeting its leader in a debate, he would end up looking like a wimp and deserving of losing more of the votes than he seems already destined to do. Such is the nature of our three-card political games, staged every time to deceive us - the eediats.

The reality is that the only thing that has changed on the political landscape since November that could explain the PNP's most recent U-turn is the conduct and publication of four poll/forecast results, all favouring that party. The PNP is now far more certain of an election victory than it had been for any previous election.

 

PRINCIPLED POSITIONS

 

Bolstered by this new level of confidence, there would be no need, it seems, for any party, not driven by any respect for its electorate, to waste debate effort pandering to the uncommitted voter, especially at the risk of talking itself out of power. A four- or five- yearly opportunity to extract a modicum of accountability from our elected representatives is being shamelessly wrested from us on spurious grounds. It speaks of high-handedness, arrogance, and contempt for the public and is unworthy of a party that was voicing a commitment to people power a mere four years ago.

It has since launched its glamorous (no-questions-allowed) manifesto and is now busy avoiding the possibility of any contact with the political ombudsman lest she succeeds in convincing it to reconsider its unprincipled position.

The PNP is no stranger to principled positions. It last took one in 1983 when its then leader, Michael Manley, refused to contest a hastily called general election on an outdated voters' list. The then prime minister, Edward Seaga, was blamed for having reneged on an agreement not to do so. Thirty-two years later, the PNP reneges on an agreement with the Debates Commission and considers it a principled act. Has something not gone wrong here?

- Olive Nelson is a chartered accountant. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and olivescottn@gmail.com.