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Peter calling out JLP, but 'ants inna PNP milk'

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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Only a wise person can solve a difficult problem. — Akan proverb

The heat is truly on Dr Peter Phillips, leader of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition and president of the People's National Party (PNP). The 80th annual conference of Norman Manley's party is only weeks away, but the PNP is yet to emerge from its moribund state. Therefore, the melting political fudge which 89 Old Hope Road tried to serve the country at its press conference last Monday is no surprise.

I believe it should be evident, even to the most rabid supporter of Dr Peter Phillips, that his grip on party leadership is tremulous at best.

Peter Bunting has become politically emboldened since his broadside against Chinese investments in Jamaica. Recall Bunting's protestations about a new type of “economic colonialism” by China in Jamaica: “Fifty-five years of our Independence from Britain, many Jamaicans are concerned that we are once again undergoing a new form of colonialism — a form of economic colonialism by Chinese operating in Jamaica.” ( The Gleaner, August 10, 2017)

After Bunting's tirade, members of the PNP's hierarchy were quick to distance themselves from him:“The People's National Party (PNP) has distanced itself from its spokesman on national security, Peter Bunting, for publicly lashing out against the Chinese dominance in the construction sector, suggesting that its former general secretary was premature in his stinging criticisms of the foreign nationals.

“General secretary of the PNP Julian Robinson, while acknowledging that the issue of the Chinese dominance in certain sectors was being discussed internally in the party, said that the PNP had not come to a final determination as to how the matter would be treated.

“Robinson said the party was not aware that Bunting was going to go public with the issue.

“ 'We believe that where those issues arise the best way to approach them would be to call the Government or the specific companies and seek to resolve them at that level in the first instance, and determine whether a solution can be had before there is a public discourse,' Robinson said.

“The general secretary disclosed that several high-ranking members of the PNP had a meeting with the Chinese ambassador yesterday, but Bunting was not invited.” ( The Gleaner, August 15, 2017)

Recall Bunting told PNP supporters at the PNP St Andrew East Central Annual Conference in September last year that, “Comrade Phillips knows he does not have to look over his shoulders for this Comrade.” ( The Gleaner, September 11, 2017) Does Phillips take that as political hard currency? Rural folks say time longer than rope.

Bunting was not at the PNP's press conference last Monday. I am not surprised. Recall that Bunting was sent to political never-never land in September of last year by Phillips. Before Bunting's exile to the political Elba, nicknamed shadow spokesperson for industry, investment and competitiveness, he was up and down the highways and byways of media almost daily. Then Bunting was shadow spokesperson on national security. His wings were strategically clipped, as we say in local parlance, by Fitz Jackson, a confidant of Phillips. Nonetheless, Bunting has consistently kept himself in front of the political 'video light'. This is not a political coincidence.

Some days ago, Bunting, I believe, all but announced to the country that he was the de facto leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, when he led an unsuccessful skirmish against the Speaker of the House of Representatives Pearnel Charles. I perceive that Phillips, to his chagrin, had little choice but join the political gimmickry.

The Black-Bellied Plovers, John Chewits and Banana Quits are singing that some in the inner sanctum of the party are saying, “Same knife stick sheep, stick goat.” I wonder why? Phillips has found himself in a political cul-de-sac. The ubiquitous birds shriek that Dr Phillips has to walk a political tightrope in relation to Bunting and Phillip Paulwell. The Manchester Central Member of Parliament, the birds tweet, controls the lion's share of the dwindling monied faction in the PNP. Paulwell, the birds sing, has significant influence among the so-called Portia delegates in St Andrew South Western. Phillips desperately needs these delegates firmly in his corner. Phillips, the birds warble, has been relegated to a weak political skipper. He is mortally afraid of a political mutiny, they tweet.

I believe Dr Phillips's press event last Monday was his way of trying to get what we call in local parlance a “political forward” [a political bump, bounce] for the upcoming PNP conference. Additionally, it was another desperate attempt to spray political scent markers to ward off those in his party who have declared that they are anxious to take over the PNP pride.

What principle?

According to the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday, July 10, 2018: “The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is threatening to withdraw its cooperation on a range of matters of national importance if Prime Minister Andrew Holness does not remove Dr Andrew Wheatley from all ministerial duties.”

I believe this is merely a deflection for another of Phillips's big problems — his grand failure to gain political traction, especially among the youth. The most recent Don Anderson Polls say as much.

Dr Phillips opined in Parliament last Tuesday that if the allegations in the Petrojam saga did not rise to the level which warranted the separation of Dr Andrew Wheatley from all ministerial responsibilities then he did not know what would. Which barometer did Phillips apply in these instances?

“Contractor General Dirk Harrison has recommended that the police launch a criminal investigation into West Hanover MP and former state minister, the PNP's Ian Hayles.

“The police are also being asked to investigate Hayles' wife, Charlotte Alexander-Hayles, and his mother, Pauline Gray.

“The referral of Hayles to the police is contained in a 232-page report prepared by the Office of the Contractor Genera (OCG).

“The report has been obtained by Nationwide News Network (NNN). Hayles has been trying to get the court to grant him an injunction barring it from being tabled in Parliament.

“Ian Hayles has found himself in trouble with the country's leading anti-corruption agency in connection with the building of a plaza in Orange Bay, Hanover.

“The Contractor General report says the plaza, which is called Just One Plaza, was built by a company which is owned by Hayles' mother, Pauline Gray and his stepdaughter.

“According to the OCG, the company was set up on the direction of Hayles' wife, Charlotte.

“Dirk Harrison's office has found that the plaza was built without a planning and building permit being obtained from the Hanover Parish Council.

“The OCG has concluded that the work on the plaza continued in “wanton disregard for a cease and desist order from the parish council”.

“Harrison has recommended that the Parish Council Act be used to sanction Hayles and his associates for unlawful building.

“The contractor general says the law allows for consideration to be given to demolishing the plaza.

“Hayles has also found himself in trouble over the building of a resort at Cousins Cove in Hanover.

“The OCG says Hayles submitted to his office an unsigned copy of a document which suggested that the Hanover Parish Council had given permission for the Cousins Cove project to go ahead.

“But the OCG says it has found that the document was invalid because it did not have the signature of an officer of the parish council. The OCG says Hayles' wife had also submitted to the Hanover Parish Council a sketch plan and surveyor certificate in relation to Cousins Cove.

“The plan and certificate purported to have the signature of a land surveyor, Andrew Bromfield. But the land surveyor told the OCG that he did not sign the document and that it contained a stamp which he no longer uses.

“The contractor general has found that 'the surveyor ID report was requested by and directed to Ian Hayles'.

“Harrison has asked the acting police commissioner to launch a criminal investigation of the Hanover Western MP and his wife.

“On Page 209 of his report, the contractor general says this recommendation has been made on the basis of prima facie evidence of a breach of the Forgery Act.” ( NNN, March 15, 2017)

Is Dr Phillips aware of this?

“The Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has given details of the criminal charges it is seeking to be laid against members of the St Ann Municipal Corporation and constituency executives in St Ann South Eastern in relation to its investigation into the award of contracts.

“They are forgery, conspiracy to defraud, and perverting the course of justice.

“According to the contractor general, he found there was conspiracy by the office of the Member of Parliament, the St Ann Municipal Corporation, and several contractors to defraud the Government.

“In June 2015, the Office of the Contractor General launched an investigation following allegations of impropriety. A team from the OCG visited MP Lisa Hanna's constituency office and seized documents.

“Contractor General Dirk Harrison has recommended that the police and the director of public prosecutions conduct a criminal investigation. The OCG has taken the position that documents submitted by Joan McDonald, a constituency executive, made her liable for a criminal investigation to be launched because the authenticity of the documents are in question.

“It adds that former Constituency Development Fund consultant, Andrea Smith, also assisted with the creation of the documents.

“The OCG indicated that it took the view that Richard Lake, acting as vice-chairman of the St Ann South Eastern constituency executive, should be investigated for breaching the law in relation to obstruction and perversion of the course of justice. This is based on his alleged comments to Joan McDonald about what she should say to the contractor general during her interview.

“In addition, the OCG also recommended that further criminal investigations be pursued for all 53 contracts issued by the St Ann Municipal Corporation, as it appears there was a conspiracy to defraud the Government.

“It also wants this probe to include the possible involvement of other employees in creating false documents as well as aiding and abetting this activity.

“The OCG, in its report, also made a recommendation that criminal investigations be initiated concerning the involvement of all councillors within the St Ann Municipal Corporation as it relates to allegations of the receipt of monies from contractors for contracts awarded by the St Ann Municipal Corporation.” ( RJR News, November 22, 2017)

We are a country of laws, notwithstanding that some years ago Dr Phillips said, “In Jamaica the man who plays by the rules get shafted.”

I have said it already, I reiterate the point for emphasis: Let the investigators complete their jobs and let the chips fall where they may.

Index improves, economy grows

“The consumer confidence index is at its highest since the first quarter of 2012. The Statistical Institute of Jamaica released its business and consumer confidence report for the second quarter of 2018 last Tuesday. All right-thinking Jamaicans would have been happy with this: “Jamaican economy grew by 1.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2018 when compared to the similar quarter of 2017. This was as a result of improved performance in both the goods-producing (2.8 per cent) and the services (0.9 per cent) industries.

Higher levels of output were recorded for all goods-producing industries: agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.6 per cent), mining and quarrying (25.9 per cent), manufacturing (0.8 per cent), and construction (1.1 per cent).”

Let's see if the PNP tries to hog the credit for these two points of light.

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

If you see yourself as a victim that is all you will ever be. — Will Spencer

Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.

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