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Hurt by Phillips - Andrew disappointed with finance minister's probe into Beverly Hills home

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2016 | 2:00 AMGary Spaulding
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness talks with The Gleaner from his West King's House Road office yesterday.

Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness yesterday admitted that he felt "hurt" by the role played by People's National Party (PNP) Campaign Director Dr Peter Phillips in fuelling the firestorm over his Beverly Hills house.

"The personal attacks that have been made on my integrity, the names of my wife's family, just the general innuendos and insinuations, have had an impact on us," said Holness, in an interview with The Gleaner.

"I am disappointed in Peter Phillips, a man for whom I had great respect. I also had a great relationship with his family - his children, and grandchildren," added Holness.

Holness told The Gleaner that some of Phillips' grandchildren were friends of his children's as they attended the same early childhood institution.

"I know his son, Mikael, fairly well, and I know Mikael's children fairly well. They used to go to school with my children," he said.

"So when I saw this personal attack about my buying a house in Beverly Hills and where I got the money, I was really taken aback," he disclosed.

Phillips, the finance and planning minister, played a leading role in the demand for Holness to shed light on the source of funds that he used to construct the house that he is building in Beverly Hills.

"I just thought that it was unbecoming of him. I held him in a higher order of esteem, and I think that he has disappointed and let me down personally," said Holness.

He charged that Phillips' action demonstrates a level of desperation and power hunger that Jamaica does not need at this time.

Asked if the relationship could be mended, Holness said: "I bear no ill will against him. I still have very warm regards for his grandchildren, and I don't have a problem interacting with him."

Holness argued that while some people say it's just politics, he was not in agreement with such a sentiment.

"I am not saying it's just politics," he declared. "I think that a higher standard is required in public life and you can't be willing to do desperate things in order to achieve power," he said.

Holness suggested that Phillips would need to look into his own conscience to resolve the situation for himself. "I am not asking him to apologise because an apology can't correct what he has done.

"We have always maintained a very high standard of public probity. We have always tried to keep within the boundaries of the law and what is expected," he added.

Holness stressed that he was well aware of his duty to protect and preserve the integrity of the Parliament as well as the Constitution in accordance with the Public Officials Act.

As such, he said that he made a commitment last year to make a declaration of assets. "I had to engage very serious consideration because such a move would inevitably change the nature of politics."

He added: "I have a political party that I am to account to as well as other members of Parliament, so we (in the JLP) had an internal discussion about how we could advance probity and integrity in public life."

Holness declared that the practice of advancing probity is carried out in other jurisdictions, including the United States. "The challenge with a small country like Jamaica, and the 'clientelistic' politics that exists, is that one is in danger of exposing himself or herself to unnecessary or unreasonable demands."

He said, however, that it was not lost on the JLP that transparency helped to improve the quality of governance and democracy.

Holness predicted that coming out of this call for probity would be an even stronger commitment from his party to make advances in the legislation surrounding governance, integrity, and probity of parliamentarians.

"We have started the discussion about making the declaration public for certain members of Parliament, and I think we should start with the prime minister, the leader of the opposition, and the finance minister," he said.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com