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Tone it down, PSOJ tells political parties

Published:Wednesday | March 6, 2019 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Mitchell

The tense political atmosphere in the high-stakes Portland East by-election, which is set for April 4, could spiral out of control if supporters of both the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) fail to adhere to the Political Code of Conduct, cautioned Howard Mitchell, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).

“We are picking up that tensions have risen markedly in Portland generally, and we are concerned that the election not be conducted in an atmosphere of hostility because there are people on the ground that are easily influenced, not to mention the volatile crime situation,” Mitchell said.

Damion Crawford is seeking to keep the constituency won by more than 2,000 votes by the late Dr Lynvale Bloomfield in the PNP column, while Ann-Marie Vaz, wife of Portland West MP Daryl Vaz, is battling to take control for the JLP. The PNP has held the seat since 1989.

According to Mitchell, PSOJ representatives in Portland are reporting heightened tension and worrying statements being made by supporters of both sides, which have increased in tone since the election date was announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

“The truth is, when you have these high-stake elections taking place, people tend to forget their comfort and their manners, and I just want to put it out there based on the impressions that are being given, and for people who are easily influenced, where tempers and heat may be generated, that we will have none of it,” Mitchell said.

The Political Code of Conduct was signed into law in 2005 and was seen as a watershed moment in the political life of Jamaica. Mitchell said that his organisation would not sit idly by and watch the country revert to the “dark and difficult days”.

In a letter to the media yesterday, the PSOJ and other sector groups highlighted their concern about the heightening rhetoric being generated around the by-election campaign.

“It is even more unfortunate that this behaviour is occurring at a time when Portland is hosting a large contingent of foreign movie makers and a positive rather than odious and vulgar image should be projected,” the release said.

The PSOJ, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce are strongly encouraging both the leadership of the parties and the candidates themselves to “refrain from inciting hostility and personal abuse in this and all other elections going forward and to be guided by the Political Code of Conduct established and promulgated by the political ombudsman”.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com