Confused, incompetent JLP Government can't manage, says Phillips

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-Large
South/Central Bureau
myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

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MILE GULLY, Manchester — Claiming that the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government is “mired in incompetence and confusion”, Opposition leader and People's National Party (PNP) President Peter Phillips has urged Comrades to organise and prepare for a return to political power.

Phillips told a Manchester North Western PNP constituency conference on Saturday night that scandals and other problems afflicting the Government were “creating doubt” in the minds of Jamaicans and various stakeholders, and had set back the country's investment climate.

“It is clear that they just can't manage and now what we have to do is prepare ourselves, get ourselves organised in every constituency across the country. we have to secure and preserve and build the unity in all our constituencies and we have to take the message of our mission to people all across the country …,” Phillips said.

The PNP's mission, he said, was to lift the standard of living for all Jamaicans, “not just a minority of the people”. Phillips identified quality education for all Jamaica's children, home ownership, and security of land ownership among the priorities of a future PNP Government.

Phillips said Prime Minister Andrew Holness's response to “scandals” afflicting his Government over recent weeks provided evidence of “confusion and incompetence”, and that the “prime minister and government just cannot manage”.

He identified the failure to name a replacement for former energy, science and technology minister Andrew Wheatley — who resigned two weeks ago — while “the affairs of the ministry are languishing in abeyance” as proof of the administration's incapacity.

Phillips argued that Holness has four ministers at his disposal at Jamaica House yet seemed unable or unwilling to choose any of them as Wheatley's replacement.

“Are they so incompetent?” he asked. “If all the ministers are incompetent, (then) close down the Government, shut it down, and mek a proper Government (take over),” he said to ringing applause.

Phillips also questioned the prime minister's pledge to provide guidance for the boards of directors in charge of public sector agencies in the wake of the recent scandals.

“He says he is taking the time to interview the boards and to tell them what to do, but is that not the job of the minister to be appointed? So if he does it, would the minister to come be expected to do it again?” Phillips said.

In addition, he queried why the board of directors at National Energy Solutions Limited had not been held “accountable for the breaches that have taken place there”, and why Holness had remained mostly silent on the issues.

Was the country supposed to wait until the prime minister completed all his discussions, Phillips asked. “The country can't run so. No sensible country can run so,” he said.

Saturday night's constituency conference at Mile Gully Primary School provided an opportunity for all six contestants for the four PNP vice-presidential posts to make presentations to party delegates from the same platform, ahead of next month's selection exercise at the party's national conference.

Host Member of Parliament for Manchester North Western, Mikael Phillips, who is the son of the party president and also a contender for vice-presidency, said the invitation to his competitors signalled the sense of unity, comradeship and family within the party.

All six contenders — Phillips, Wykeham McNeill, Angella Brown Burke, Fenton Ferguson, Phillip Paulwell and Damion Crawford— spoke for several minutes each.

Describing the vice-presidential contest as “an important race”, Peter Phillips said it was an indication of strong internal democracy. He rejected suggestions that it should have been avoided in order to ensure party unity.

“There are those who said we shouldn't have it …because it going to cause friction. But if we are a party that can't have (internal) election what kind of party would that be? The purpose of a party is to allow different views to contend, and what I see here tonight is that the views can contend and comradeship can remain strong and intact. That is what the PNP has been and what it should be now, and that is what it should always be,” he said.

The party president was also at pains to emphasise that while his son was involved in the presidential race, he (Peter Phillips) would remain neutral.

“We have six candidates, six are my comrades, six are my friends, and one is my son, of the flesh… I want you to know, to accept, and to understand — I am for all and I am not partial to any,” Phillips told Comrades.

In direct reference to Mikael Phillips, the elder Phillips said: “This race is his race, it is not my race. I am neutral in this race…”

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