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Mark Wignall | By-election and the war of words

Published:Wednesday | September 13, 2017 | 12:00 AM

It was outside of the character of Dr. Peter Phillips to have said to a captive audience of People's National Party (PNP) supporters in North West St Ann on August 13, "Remember is only one separating us in the Parliament and we don't know is which one, whether is one weh a guh prison or is a sick one, or a crazy one, but is one. Any number can play, so get yourselves ready."

Phillips later gave an apology of sorts for singling out Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Member of Parliament (MP) Derrick Smith, who has a medical condition that is being treated long term. Phillips, in his apology, said he has always had respect for Smith and it was never his intention to offend him.

Well, that still leaves the 'crazy one' and the person 'whey a guh prison'. In recent months, Dr Phillips has been under pressure to bring new energy to the PNP and one way of doing that has been to carry a narrative that the JLP may call a snap election.

Unfortunately, not long after the opposition leader made his political trash-talk from the podium, PNP MP for South East St Mary Dr Winston Green died. Apart from the obvious sadness associated with Dr Green's death, there is now the by-election planned for that constituency and so, the politician in Dr Phillips will not allow him to cool off on a game that he does not play very well, that of firebrand from the political podium.




In a recent broadside against the opposition leader, West Portland MP and JLP minister Daryl Vaz, speaking in front of his own captive audience of JLP supporters, has accused Phillips of dabbling in the sort of matter that must have led to Sammy's demise after he had planted a green, fruitful and thriving 'piece a corn dung a gully'.

At the heart of Vaz's accusations is the upcoming by-election in South East St Mary and the need to move the needle from the current JLP/PNP seat split. 'Thirty-two, thirty-one, that is not comfortable for the prime minister ... he needs a little more latitude ... he needs thirty-three, thirty.'

With the zone of special operations (ZOSO) fully on in Mt Salem, St James, but not without hiccups, Dr Phillips has hit upon the great and all-illuminating idea that since the official start of the operations in the country's western end, the daily murder rate has actually ticked upwards.

Well, blow me down and shrivel my parts! Was anyone really expecting the murder rate to significantly move either way in so short a period of time?

"Mi nuh understand a weh dah man deh a seh," said a taxi man to me on Tuesday.

"Peter Phillips have to talk," I said to him. "He is leader of the opposition and him want power. Him have to talk tings that him believe people want to hear."

"True, but di operations ting jus' start and it need a chance fi work. Him fi support it or keep him mout' shut," he said.




The people of this country can expect the sort of political activity in the South East St Mary by-elections as occurred in the North East St Ann by-election in 2001.

At that time, the ruling PNP, on the very eve of those elections, rolled out road works and the usual 'bullo wuk' associated with catching the gullible voters, while Audley Shaw and David Panton of the JLP were operating as if they were high-tech generals involved in a major campaign that mirrored an all-out general election.

The end result was one of the biggest shockers for the PNP, and Shahine Robinson has safely held power there ever since. On paper, South East St Mary seems to be an easier task for the JLP, as it appears that the PNP is in a pattern of public doubt and downturn.

In the 2016 election, Dr Peter Philllips, it is believed, harped too long on then Opposition Leader Andrew Holness's mansion in Beverly Hills and it failed to earn him the plaudits that he hoped would have been his in that exercise.

Picking on the ZOSO is a losing game for the professorial Dr Peter Phillips. Keeping his mouth shut is not an option. What then for Peter?