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DO THE DEBATES! - Religious leaders nudge PNP even as party hints at change in its stance

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Then Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) and then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller facing off in the leaders' debate in 2011.


Faced with widespread criticisms, the People's National Party (PNP) yesterday hinted that it could change its stance of participation in the national political debates.

Yesterday, the Jamaica Debates Commission indicated that it was "encouraged" by an undertaking from PNP General Secretary Paul Burke that by tomorrow, he will provide it with a response to its request for the party to reconsider its position on participating in the three proposed debates.

But even as the PNP seemed to be shifting its position, some religious leaders joined members of the business community and civil society in urging the party to take part in the debates.


The Reverend Al Miller, Fellowship Tabernacle:


"The debates do serve a purpose; they are not the be-all and the end-all, but they do serve a purpose to help hold our leadership accountable. People can be able to better understand their (politicians') policies and where they are leading us as it pertains to their visions.

"There are not many other forums where we get to hear their vision, direction and policies on how they will deal with the critical issues.

"I think it is a little unfortunate that they are not participating in the debate. It does serve some benefits in information, understanding and education, to see where the country is headed."


The Reverend Karl B. Johnson, General Secretary, Jamaica Baptist Union:


"I will say that this raises a number of issues and I think the PNP should proceed and take part in the debate. What that would do is affirm for them that the matters they are raising are important matters.

"This would also show some appreciation to those Jamaicans who see value in that tool or avenue of communication. This value of a national debate is just one way in which their message could be brought out. I don't think it is superior or inferior to any other route, but it's still one of the ways to get the message out.

"I am not in the camp that think that the debate is the only way, but I agree that you should use a variety of avenues and methodologies to get your message out. If I had more time and space, I would urge them and the country that we need to be careful that we are not just taking their promises."

The Reverend Fr Sean C. Major-Campbell

Rector, Christ Church, Vineyard Town:

"I hold the view strongly that the country is owed the experience of the debate and this is not just relating to this period, but we should always be expecting accountability from all those who offer political service.

"And regardless of which political party they belong to, we should expect the highest level of accountability. So I believe it is a duty that both political parties have to the country."


The Reverend Orville H. Ramocan, Director in the office of the president, Independent Churches of Jamaica:


"I think it is not a good thing [to refuse participate in the debates]. You know, I believe the country is looking forward to hear what our leaders have to offer. And that is depriving the nation of that opportunity. I would like to encourage the prime minister to change her mind."


The Reverend Hartley Perrin, Custos Rotulorum of Westmoreland:


"There are three parties participating here - the JLP, the PNP and the media. I am of the view that persons have already decided where they are going to vote and a debate will not make much difference to those that have not decided as yet.

"I know the prime minister has not been one who has been facing the media over the years and here is the opportunity to prove those persons who have been making the criticism wrong. It is all politics on display, nonetheless."