Mon | Nov 30, 2020

#JaVotes2020 | Holness calls for violence-free election

Published:Wednesday | August 19, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party Andrew Holness speaking at a ceremony to mark the signing of the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct on August 19, 2020, at Emancipation Park in St Andrew - Gladstone Taylor photo.

Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Andrew Holness has urged candidates in the September 3 general election to conduct their campaigning without any “hint, form or any measure that could be considered intimidatory, confrontational or violent”.

After his nomination Tuesday, Holness said, "I'm worried that there is a strategy by the Opposition of confrontation.

"That is the old-style we're evolving from and I'm really, really hoping that is not something that will be a feature of their campaign," he added. 

At a ceremony where the leaders of the JLP and People’s National Party (PNP) signed a document signifying their commitment to the Agreement and Declaration on Political Conduct, Holness charged that “it should never be that in the year 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, we are hearing our supporters complain that they are being targeted politically".

The ceremony was held this morning at Emancipation Park in St Andrew.

“I use this platform to appeal and to encourage all political practitioners to ensure that there is no such thing going forward as of the signing of this document. Let’s make the document real and not just a symbol,” he added.

Holness’ remarks come amid sharp criticisms from the PNP over suggestions by him that the killing of Paul Henry, 36, a worker for the JLP in Clarendon South East, was politically motivated.

“Last night (Monday night), very late, I got a text from Pearnel [Charles] Jr about the murder of one of his workers. Pearnel, being a lawyer, was very careful not to ascribe blame, but it was very clear that he was deeply hurt and that he holds the view there is some kind of political motivation behind it,” Holness told reporters after being nominated on Tuesday.

He said there have been several other incidents, including one in Trelawny last week where his motorcade was blocked by people wearing the orange party colour of the PNP. 

However, General Secretary of the PNP Julian Robinson rejected as baseless the assertion by Holness that his party was pushing a strategy of confrontation in the ongoing election campaign. 

“The family of the person killed has said, at this stage, there is no determination of political motive. The police have also come out and said there is nothing to confirm political motive. Now, when the head of government makes a statement like that he is setting up people for further violence. He has to be more responsible in his utterances,” Robinson told The Gleaner this morning after signing the Political Code of Conduct.

Robinson said that the waving of flags and sweeping with brooms are part of Jamaica’s political culture.

He said PNP supporters have the right to be in their communities if the prime minister is passing through, so long as they don’t obstruct him.

Chairman of the PNP Fitz Jackson said that the prime minister should apologise for his remarks.

“We are making a formal appeal to the prime minister to make an apology to the country and to withdraw those comments that he made. It is inflammatory, and it’s dangerous,” he said.

When asked if political motivations were behind the incident, Senior Superintendent of Police Stephanie Lindsay, head of the police’s communications unit, said that “the investigations are showing otherwise”.

Robinson also pointed out that preliminary enquiries by the political ombudsman have not disclosed a political motive.

“In the face of these assertions by these independent authorities, it is particularly egregious and unbecoming for the prime minister to make such a patently false and inflammatory allegation,” he added.

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