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PNP and JLP to lock horns in national debates

Published:Saturday | February 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Members of the country's two major political parties are to face off in a national debate ahead of the pending local government elections.

The Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) yesterday advised that the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) have agreed to participate in a national debate.

One or two debates will be organised and staged under the auspices of the JDC between nomination day and election day, once those dates are announced.

An agreement to participate in televised debates was yesterday signed on behalf of the PNP by Deputy General Secretary Raymond Pryce and on behalf of the JLP by Deputy General Secretary Audley Gordon.

Speaking after the signing, JDC Chairman Noel daCosta thanked both parties for the speed with which they responded to the commission's invitation to participate in debates, and reiterated the JDC's view that the Jamaican electorate - and ultimately, Jamaica's democratic process - would benefit from the opportunity to hear directly from candidates aspiring to political office. "Political debates," he noted, "enable viewers and listeners to make better-informed electoral decisions."

Pryce commended the Commission for having set a high standard with the staging of its 2012 local government debates, adding that political debates have now become "a standard feature of the country's democratic space". The JDC's brand and platform, he said, give credibility to the process; hence the PNP's swift agreement to participate.

Similarly, Gordon noted that as Jamaica's democracy matures, the political debates staged by the JDC have become one of the indices of that maturity. He indicated that one of the most important aspects of the debates has been getting the views of candidates on the record so that they can be held accountable based on their stated positions. He encouraged the electorate to "hold us to full account for what we say".