Saturday 21 September, 2019

A case of 'cock mouth kill cock’ in the PNP presidential election?

Peter Bunting (left) and Dr Peter Phillips.

Peter Bunting (left) and Dr Peter Phillips.

It could well be a case of ‘cock mouth kill cock’ for the People’s National Party (PNP), as National Integrity Action (NIA) wants Political Ombudsman, Donna Parchment Brown, to investigate allegations of vote buying that were made against each of the competing camps by some senior members of the Opposition party.

NIA also wants the ombudsman to investigate claims that one side used so-called dons to influence delegates.

The allegations were made last week at the height of the contentious presidential campaign between supporters of Dr Peter Phillips and his challenger, Peter Bunting.

The acrimonious campaign between Phillips’ OnePNP team and Bunting’s Rise United camp, ended on Saturday in a vote by delegates that saw Phillips retaining the presidency, but by a margin of only 76 votes.

While comrades turn their attention to the task of unifying the 81-year-old party at the end of the bruising contest, NIA is saying ‘not so fast’.

In a letter to the political ombudsman, head of NIA, Professor Trevor Munroe, said: “As you’re no doubt aware, the election to the presidency of the People’s National Party has now taken place.

“However, I believe the public interest and the upholding of appropriate standards in Jamaican politics require that your office, under section 12 (1)(a) of the Ombudsman Act, undertake an immediate investigation into allegations published in the media during the presidential contest.”

Munroe noted that on September 4, the OnePNP campaign alleged that Rise United was engaged in vote buying, and on September 5, Rise United alleged that OnePNP was using ‘dons’ to intimidate delegates.

Munroe also noted that each allegation suggested that the other side was seeking to induce delegates to support their candidate through illicit methods.

Said Munroe further: “Some may argue that the election is over and these matters are now behind us, or ‘a so de runnings go’, or ‘let sleeping dogs lie’. You would appreciate, however, that these are not trivial matters, and that such responses are absolutely unacceptable to any Jamaican who stands for greater integrity in our country’s politics.”

The NIA head argued that “were the allegations substantiated, they would be in clear breach of Jamaica’s Code of Political Conduct, which the officials of the PNP, (as well as the Jamaica Labour Party), as political parties, recently registered under the party registration regulations, are now obliged by law to uphold.

“Moreover, such substantiated charges would also, arguably, be in breach of Section 14 (11) of the Corruption Prevention Act. In either case, following investigation, appropriate punishment should be applied to those found guilty of breaches,” Munroe stated.

He added that: “On the other hand, if these allegations prove to be unfounded, the public should be so informed. Being informed of such a finding would help to question the validity of the widespread opinion amongst our people that all politicians in Jamaica are corrupt.

"This perception lumps the good and the bad together, discourages increasing numbers of Jamaicans from voting, as well as from participating in politics and, ultimately thereby, seriously undermines our democratic system.”

During a September 4 press conference, Lisa Hanna, the Member of Parliament (MP) for South East St Ann, said she had evidence of vote buying by the Bunting-led team.

“I can say, with certainty and clarity, and evidence, that even in my constituency yesterday (Tuesday September 3) morning at 8:00 a.m., a leader of the Rise (United]) team was there offering and giving and issuing envelopes containing $10,000,” Hanna stated.

“And every time he went to a delegate and left the envelope, I was called,” Hanna added.

However, the Rise United team fired back in a statement on September 5, in which it accused the Phillips camp of bringing the party into disrepute.

“We are disappointed at the wild and unsubstantiated allegations on a variety of issues, including vote buying, suddenly being made by senior members of the OnePNP leadership, who should know better than to so casually bring the party into disrepute,” the statement said.

The statement added that allegations of vote buying were similarly made weeks ago on a OnePNP platform in Portmore.

“They have been unable to substantiate those false and mischievous claims,” the statement said while alleging vote buying on the part of the OnePNP campaign.

“In virtually every political contest in contemporary times, similar allegations have been made. Indeed, the Rise United campaign has received credible reports of delegates receiving offers of money from the OnePNP campaign to solicit their support. However, we have chosen to address those matters internally,” the statement said.

And the Bunting campaign suggested that nefarious characters were being used in an attempt to sway delegates.

Without elaborating, the statement said: “The RU (Rise United) campaign is also saddened by OnePNP resurrecting washed-up, so-called dons who are feebly attempting to influence delegates.

“We remind all those who may have forgotten, that the PNP has long turned its face against this type of politics.

“The RU campaign warns the OnePNP camp that this approach will not help them, and may cause long-term damage to the reputation of our beloved party.”

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