KINGSTON – People’s National Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips yesterday used his first conference as head of the 79-year-old movement to severely criticise the Government’s stewardship of the country since it took office in March 2016.
Phillips, in his hour-long address to Comrades at the National Arena in Kingston, said the Andrew Holness-led Government is in over its head in terms of managing the country.
While admitting that many Jamaicans have been left behind in independent Jamaica, and suggesting that both parties were at fault, the Opposition leader said this JLP Government came into office on a wave of false promises and remains there through corruption.
“The People’s National Party must not be just about winning power, we want to win power for the purpose of serving and building a better Jamaica… We are a party dedicated to serving the Jamaican people and uplifting the oppressed and the downtrodden. It is clear that the current Government doesn’t share our mission for the country,” he said to rousing applause from enthused Comrades.
Phillips said the Government “scammed” Jamaicans with its $1.5-million tax break implemented last year; failed to double minimum wage as promised; and offered corruption instead of good governance.
“…Those who want to lead must demonstrate high standards of integrity,” he stressed.
At the same time, he ripped into the Government’s management of crime, arguing that it is rampant in every parish and, equally, that the entire Jamaica is becoming a crime zone.
He said year-to-date murders are up 25 per cent when compared to last year, noting that, under the current Administration “one Jamaican is killed every four hours”.
The PNP president said, while his party is not averse to the latest crime fighting measure — the Zones of Special Operations — it is not a crime plan.
Meanwhile, he reiterated the party’s five-point plan put forward to address the surging crime rate.
He called on the Government to replace the $2 billion taken from the national security budget; replenish the $20-billion legal defence fund for police that his party started; mobilise the court system to facilitate speedier trials by having courts meeting routinely and for later hours to reduce backlog; fast-track the debate concerning legislation to guarantee independence for the operations of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency; and facilitate a national approach to crime.
“We are prepared, as a party, to meet with the Government, the trade unions, private sector, churches, human rights groups, [and] citizens’ associations. Quite frankly, we are prepared to meet with anyone who is prepared to meet with us, because we are putting Jamaica first and we want to see crime go down in Jamaica,” he said.
Phillips said that with the current climate in the country, Government’s response suggests incompetence.
“Even as the country is being overwhelmed by crime and violence, the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) has no crime plan. In a time when the country needs more tourist arrivals, the two airports have been closed because of incompetence. They promised a tax break without a tax take and we end up with two massive tax packages. In the economy they promised growth, but up until now all we have experienced is hardship. Jamaica is under the threat of gun violence and they give gun licences to known criminals,” Phillips said as flag-waving Comrades egged him on.