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First political debate called off after PNP fails to respond to JDC

Published:Friday | February 12, 2016 | 2:39 PM
Brian Schmidt, commissioner of the Jamaica Debates Commission at a press briefing Thursday. To his right is fellow commissioner, Gary Allen. The Debates Commission was responding to the PNP's decision to pull out of the national political debates two weeks before the February 25 general election.

The Jamaica Debates Commission (JDC) has called off the first of three political debates that was slated for Tuesday, February 18.

In a statement issued late Friday afternoon, the JDC says it will no longer be able to plan a debate between the main political parties for Tuesday, because it generally requires three days.

The JDC said the People's National Party (PNP) did not respond to its letter in time asking the party to reconsider its position so that planning can begin for the debates.

"As we have not received a response as at the time of writing, we wish to advise that the JDC can no longer commit to organising and staging the first debate on Tuesday, February 16," the commission said.

The JDC had indicated it wanted a response from the PNP by 5:00 p.m. Friday.

Meanwhile, the commission says it would still be willing to organise three debates between the JLP and the PNP.

"The JDC remains open to staging the three debates beginning later in the week provided an agreement can be reached with the JLP to that effect. The same condition – three clear days before the live broadcast of the first debate – would remain in place," a spokesperson for the JDC said in a statement.

“We should note that given the position of both political parties over the course of our negotiations that the last several days ahead of the election should be reserved for their closing campaign events, any decision to debate – if this were to prove necessary – between Sunday February 21 and Tuesday February 23, must be a mutual decision of both political parties…,” read the statement.

The PNP has insisted that it wants the JLP leader, Andrew Holness to respond to its concerns before participating.

According to PNP general secretary Paul Burke, the party is "standing on principle".