Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
FORMER PRESIDENT of the People's National Party (PNP) and prime minister, P.J. Patterson, has countered integrity barbs being hurled at the party he once led.
Speaking at the public session of the PNP's Annual Conference at the National Arena in Kingston yesterday, Patterson argued that the party's record speaks for itself on the subject of integrity.
Both Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader Andrew Holness and his challenger, Audley Shaw, have hit out at what they characterised as corruption and lack of integrity in the PNP in the midst of the Spaldings Market controversy involving former State Minister in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing Richard Azan.
Minutes earlier, a smiling Azan coolly strolled into the National Arena, clearly revelling in the howls of cheers that greeted his arrival, with some supporters bearing placards demonstrating their unwavering support for the beleaguered politician.
Patterson also urged the JLP to soften its stance on the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), Dr Herbert Thompson, who collected an award reportedly on behalf of the organisation that was also marred by a mix-up of names.
The former prime minister stressed that the ECJ should not be at the centre of any conflict as it was created out of an agreement between the two major political parties. He said the PNP and JLP had cast their differences aside to forge an arrangement that created the highly effective electoral monitoring organisation.
" … That is why we honoured the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, because it is something that serves to inspire us that when we work together, we can take this country forward, onward, and upward."
Patterson waxed lyrical in the pulsating atmosphere as he sought to defend the PNP's reputation.
"There is a lot of talk about the party and its position on integrity," declared Patterson. "That's what Norman Manley stood for; that's what Michael Manley stood for; that's what I stood for; and that's what Sister P stands for."
Added Patterson: "It is this party which created the Corruption Prevention Act; it is this party which created the Access to Information Act; it is this party which created the Office of Utilities Regulations; it's this party that created NEPA (The National Environment and Planning Agency)."
The former party leader described Comrades as shareholders in the 75-year-old PNP, urging them to take care of the party as it was not a creature of the Government.