‘Comrades are not for sale’ - Golding, Hanna camps pledge to shun vote-buying in presidential contest
Key surrogates of the Lisa Hanna and the Mark Golding campaigns say that they are shunning vote-buying as they prepare to shift gears heading into the November 7 battle for the presidency of the People’s National Party (PNP).
Writing in The Sunday Gleaner yesterday, outgoing PNP President Dr Peter Phillips urged contestants in the internal elections to repudiate the practice.
“ ... We cannot insulate Comrades against vote-buying when the use of money in internal elections in the PNP is like a cancer that will kill the body of the authentic PNP. Leave it alone! Once the purchase of votes is legitimised inside the party, you cannot go out and tell the people not to sell their votes. You just won’t have any credibility,” Phillips stated.
Chairman of the Golding campaign, Anthony Hylton, told The Gleaner yesterday that while his team was against the practice, policing it would be difficult.
“If there is evidence that it is being done by either side, there is grounds for a complaint and sanction. I alone can’t police these practices, but our campaign is committed [to not engaging in it],” he said. “We not naïve. Somebody may be supporting the campaign that is not part of the structure and may be doing it on their own. That gets more difficult to detect, but many times, we are saying, ‘Don’t do it’.”
He expressed confidence in the election monitoring committee to enforce the rules of the campaign.
“We are not about to take any risk. We are aware, though it is an internal election, there are national implications, and one way to rebuild the trust in the party is for us to conduct a clear, above-board campaign so that the general population can look on and say, ‘Yes, this is the PNP record, and the PNP is getting back on track’,” Hylton stated.
Both Hanna and Golding signed a code of conduct last week, pledging to run clean campaigns.
Natalie Neita, the manager of Hanna’s campaign, told The Gleaner that the delegates would not be wooed with cash by her camp.
“Lisa Hanna is committed to the Michael Manley principle: ‘we are not for sale’. This party is not for sale, and our Comrades are not for sale. Those who can be bought can be sold. We expect them to vote on their conviction, understanding that Lisa Hanna comes with political experience and that she wants to lead Jamaica in a new direction,” said Neita, who ran Phillips’ successful campaign against Peter Bunting last year in a similar presidential election.
Phillips is not the only high-ranking member of the PNP to raise the issue of vote-buying in an internal contest.
Last year, former General Secretary Paul Burke told The Gleaner that Comrades had no firm ground to stand on and chided the governing Jamaica Labour Party about allegations of vote-buying in elections.
“The PNP has no moral authority to talk about buying votes because whereas it is not a strategic objective of the PNP leadership in by-elections and elections, there are too many in the PNP who believe that is the way to go,” Burke said at the time.
He further charged that the leadership of the party had not done enough to uproot the practice over the years.
In the meantime, Hylton has expressed confidence in Golding coming out on top, with nominations formally opening today for the post of president.
“We are positive, and it is clear to me that we have the momentum. The delegates are excited,” he said.
Neita said the delegates are already excited by Hanna.
“Our job is to ensure that we get them out on November 7 to the polls and allow them to cast their vote as they are convicted to do,” she said.
Nominations will close on Friday, and a draft list of the delegates eligible to vote will be published by the PNP tomorrow and a final list on October 30.