Wed | Sep 23, 2020

PNP takes aim at seven marginal seats

Published:Sunday | August 9, 2020 | 12:29 AMRomario Scott - Sunday Gleaner Writer
People’s National Party President Dr Peter Phillips (seated, centre) speaks with prospective election candidate Dr Angela Brown Burke as Krystal Tomlinson signs the covenant and declaration against corruption at The University of the West Indies, Mona, y
People’s National Party President Dr Peter Phillips (seated, centre) speaks with prospective election candidate Dr Angela Brown Burke as Krystal Tomlinson signs the covenant and declaration against corruption at The University of the West Indies, Mona, yesterday.

The opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has locked seven key seats now held by the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in its cross hairs as it gets ready to up the tempo as the campaign for the next general election begins to heat up.

Yesterday, a senior PNP strategist told The Sunday Gleaner that the party was targeting St James West Central, the seat held by Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte; St James Central, held by Heroy Clarke; St Catherine East Central, represented by Junior Education Minister Alando Terrelonge; St Andrew Eastern, held by Fayval Williams, minister of science, energy and technology; St Mary South East, currently represented by Dr Norman Dunn; St Andrew West Rural, held by Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn; and Hanover Eastern, held by Dave Brown.

That was corroborated by PNP President Dr Peter Phillips, who told The Sunday Gleaner that he was satisfied with the party’s state of readiness for the impending polls and the team had a clear idea of what was required for the party to upset the JLP at the polls.

In the 2016 polls, the PNP lost 11 seats to the JLP, which emerged with a one-seat margin of victory (32-31) when the dust settled. The JLP picked up two additional seats in subsequent by-elections.

This time around, Phillips said that the PNP was intent on holding on to its current tally of 29 seats as it pushes to bag a few others to regain power.

“We have a strategy to hold our seats and to take those which we have targeted, studied and have identified. So we have an objective,” Phillips said. “We think we have some in western Jamaica that we are going to take.”

He added that the party would be hitting the road to take its message “all over the country”.

Yesterday, the PNP presented its 63 prospective candidates during a meeting at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

The Sunday Gleaner understands that the party’s campaign strategists have been poring over the canvass numbers, which were finalised mere days ago, as they also review information coming out of focus groups.

The party is about to roll out technology which will help identify voters and the polling divisions to which they have been assigned, it was also revealed.

“We have a winning strategy, we have better a team, the younger team, the more creative team, the more energetic team and we are going to win,” Phillips insisted, appearing upbeat after the meeting with the candidates and their campaign managers.

The meeting took place ahead of today’s meeting of the JLP’s Central Executive Committee, set for Montego Bay, St James.

At that meeting, Prime Minister and JLP leader Andrew Holness is expected to tell the executive committee, which is made up of all standard-bearers of the party, that he is about to call a general election.

It is unlikely that Holness will announce the election date at the meeting. However, JLP sources have said that he will be calling the party’s prospective candidates to the starting line.

But as political watchers eagerly await any announcement from Holness, Phillips made a few promises about what he intends to do if he lands in Jamaica House.

Among them is an undertaking to cut ties with the British monarchy by holding a referendum within 18 months of taking office.

The PNP is also proposing a law which would ensure vacation, sick leave and maternity leave or equivalent gratuity payments to all contract workers.

Phillips also announced that he would establish a comprehensive code of ethics, conduct and performance for parliamentarians, bolstered by a system of sanctions.

On that point, PNP candidates will be asked to sign a declaration against corruption, which Phillips said will be used to hold them accountable if they are accused of wrongdoing while in office.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com