Mon | Sep 16, 2019

Phillips says wife responded to criticism to protect reputation

Published:Friday | August 23, 2019 | 12:37 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
People’s National Party President Dr Peter Phillips speaking to members of the media yesterday as PNP Deputy General Secretary Basil Waite (left), General Secretary Julian Robinson (second left) and Chairman Fitz Jackson look on.
People’s National Party President Dr Peter Phillips speaking to members of the media yesterday as PNP Deputy General Secretary Basil Waite (left), General Secretary Julian Robinson (second left) and Chairman Fitz Jackson look on.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips has indicated that his wife was seeking to protect her reputation and his when she complained about the Integrity Commission’s summary report of his 2018 statutory declaration, which was published in the Jamaica Gazette and appeared to under-report the value of their real estate assets.

Further, Phillips has embraced the commission’s decision to rely on the purchase price of real estate assets instead of the current market value in its summary reports from statutory declarations though he insisted that “both can be of value”.

Describing the use of the purchase price as understandable, Phillips pointed out that the current market value placed on properties “doesn’t necessarily speak to the question of how you acquire assets”, which he acknowledged is the main purpose of the commission.

“Their purpose is to deal with integrity … to ensure that public officials buying assets can support the purchases with the income they report,” he said during a press conference at the People’s National Party’s St Andrew headquarters yesterday.

“If you purchased something 10 years ago and the value is [up] 10 times, that doesn’t speak to the issue of integrity … . That is just the function of the market,” he reasoned.

Eyebrows were raised after the published summary reports of the two parliamentary leaders, which were gazetted in the last four weeks, indicated that Phillips and Prime Minister Andrew Holness owned real estate assets valued at $3.6 million and $7 million, respectively.

The opposition leader’s wife, attorney Sandra Minott-Phillips, revealed that her husband’s 2018 declaration placed the value of the real estate assets they own at $58 million and not $3.6 million.

She suggested, too, in a letter to The Gleaner, that the commission was to be blamed for the grossly under-reported figure.

According to Minott-Phillips, her husband had suggested to the commission that “where your summary attributes a purchase price value to an asset, my preference would be for it to make it clear, perhaps by use of an asterisk and a footnote, that value represents the purchase price at the date of acquisition”.

Yesterday, Phillips stood by his wife as he explained to journalists why it took one month for Minott-Phillips’ intervention.

“When someone seems to take the opportunity to impugn, through the media, my integrity by suggesting wrongly that I had under-reported the value, my wife, who felt her own integrity was being assailed, saw fit to respond,” he said, making reference to a Sunday Gleaner op-ed article.

“My response – or my wife’s response in this matter – was to any suggestion which would have had a very negative effect on my own reputation and on hers that there was somehow some deliberate process of misrepresentation. It’s not so,” he added.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com