Holness, Phillips end debate on high noteSunday, August 30, 2020
BY ARTHUR HALL
It was not the slugfest that many were expecting, but Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader Prime Minister Andrew Holness and People's National Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips addressed several major issues as they closed the 2020 National Political Debates on a high note last night.
From corruption to crime, COVID-19 to economics and exports, the role of women in politics and the digital divide, the two party leaders defended the performance of their parties and sought to outline their plans for the way forward.
Phillips fired the first salvo with an argument that on September 3, Jamaicans can either continue with the present economic stagnation, crime, and a deepening digital divide.
“Or we can choose a future of opportunity, of better education for all our people. A future of relief from the COVID pressures and we can proceed in a way that offers opportunities for all our people,” said Phillips as he urged Jamaicans to vote for the PNP.
In his rebuttal, Holness argued that his Administration has been doing right by the Jamaican people.
“In our four and a half years 22,000 Jamaicans have had the chance, not to rent, but to own their own homes. We have created over 100,000 jobs, poverty is at its lowest in 10 years… We have made massive investments in security to equip our security forces and increase their presence in your communities.
“But the greatest achievement, I believe, is that in three of our four years we have either had no new taxes or we have given back taxes that Dr Peter “Papa Tax” Phillips had placed on you,” declared Holness.
But Holness found himself on the back foot as he responded to a question on his decision to call the general election at a time when the country is seeing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“We would never do anything to place the lives of the Jamaican people at risk,” said the prime minister. “The pandemic will only end when there is a vaccine. This may be a year and a half to two years, according to some experts, [and] this would be well outside the constitutional limits to call an election. Jamaica is still considered to be one of the countries that has managed the pandemic extremely well, and in fact we have one of the lowest mortality rates [per capita],” said Holness.
He argued that with a pandemic there will be spikes and Jamaica has to go on with normal activities.
But Phillips argued that the Holness Administration has disregarded the advice of the medical personnel.
“In the period of the 'Emancipendence' celebrations the recommendation was made that there should be a tightening of the curfew arrangements and the other arrangements and that was ignored. The consequences have been devastating on the people of Jamaica,” declared Phillips as he argued that there was no reason to ignore common-sense advice from the medical personnel.
In his follow-up Holness rejected the claim that his Administration ignored the advice of the medical personnel as he argued that Jamaicans will have to learn to live with COVID.