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Opposition Wants a Scrutineer Over the Integrity Commission

Alaina Hull

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Just when one would believe the issues within the Integrity Commission were over and the anti-corruption watchdog would once again function in a cohesive manner, the Opposition has begun to compound the issue. There is now a demand for an oversight committee to be formed, to track the activities of the Commission. The Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, has even moved for a resolution in the Parliament to this effect. If the legislators agree, that would mean having a watchdog over a watchdog! That is how democracies function sometimes.

Opposition Cites Lack of Transparency

The last interaction the members of the Integrity Commission had with the media, and the statement released by its Chairman, Justice Karl Harrison, should have settled the issue. The sticking point, however, is the sale of property in St. Ann at a much-reduced value than what was assessed. The then OCG had mentioned intervention by a government minister in the transaction, giving political fodder to the opposition.

The information being sought by the opposition is being withheld by the Integrity Commission, by referring to provisions in the Integrity Commission Act that allow them such confidentiality. The reason the opposition is asking for this information is so that they may be reviewed and amended, if feasible.

Dr. Peter Phillips Gives the Government 14 Days to Assemble the Committee

In a resolution that the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, moved in the Parliament, it has been asked that a committee be formed within 14 days. Moreover, this is expected to happen, and the committee to file its report, before the current session of the Parliament is concluded. What the precise mandate of that committee will be, has not been made specific.

Apart from the political leadership, some sections of the civil society have also been demanding that the full findings of the OCG in the St. Ann deal be made public. Interestingly, one of the five members of the Integrity Commission, Mr. Seymour Panton, a retired judge, has issued a similar call. He has said that the legal clauses that impede transparency in the working of the Integrity Commission must be amended. That will help with negating the criticism the IC faces now and silence those who question its impartiality.

The demand made by Dr. Peter Phillips is not very different. He also says a Joint Panel comprising members of both Houses of Parliament be constituted to go into the Integrity Commission Act and remove the obstacles to the Commission functioning transparently.

The commitment to deliver knowledge and information to the world is a duty that one should not take lightly; it is one that I do not take lightly. Equipped with 10 years of professional writing experience, and even more so of "scribbling in a journal", I aim to provide in-depth, accurate and expeditious news and information. "Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air."- Henry Anatole Grunwald alaina@zlotonews.com

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I Will Not Take a Side! Says Portia Simpson Miller

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I have not and will not take a side.”

The former President of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) Portia Simpson Miller made this declaration recently.  Simpson Miller made her comment in a statement posted on her Twitter account two days ago. She also encouraged her party comrades to keep the leadership campaign respectful and clean.

Simpson Miller’s statement came in the wake of the PNP leadership challenge mounted by Central Manchester Member of Parliament, Peter Bunting. Bunting is seeking to unseat Dr. Peter Phillips who is the current President of the PNP.

Don’t Use My Name and Image

Also, Portia Simpson Miller asked in her statement that the campaign not use her name and image. Her request to distance her name and likeness from this potentially divisive campaign is in a bid to counter any speculation that she is in favour of either of the Peters. She did not want anything to suggest that she intended to take a side in this leadership race.

Further, Simpson Miller encouraged her comrades to campaign vigorously for their candidate. She, however, cautioned that they should be mindful that following an internal contest the party must continue its preparation for the next General Elections.

The next General Elections are constitutionally due in 2021.

Simpson Miller also declared that her first loyalty and duty are always with the People’s National Party.

Internal Election Date Not Confirmed

The PNP has not yet confirmed a date for the election of the leader. Initially, expectations were that the elections for a new party leader would be held in September during the party’s annual conference.

However, the party is to arrange the logistics for a special meeting of the party for the internal elections.  Dr. Peter Phillips had requested that the party settles the matter surrounding the leadership challenge early. He had no desire for this matter to drag on and interfere with the agenda of the September party conference.

Disquiet in the PNP over Upcoming Campaign

Supporters of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP). The party is now in the throes of a leadership challenge mounted by Peter Bunting.

Meanwhile, there is much division within the PNP among supporters of Dr. Phillips and Mr. Bunting. Party insiders also contended that the timing of Bunting’s challenge against Phillips was bad. Noting that internal leadership challenges will set the party back, the insiders condemned Bunting’s decision to mount the challenge at this time.

For his part, Peter Bunting defended his decision as the right one. One of his rationales was that the PNP under Dr. Phillip’s leadership will not succeed against the Andrew Holness led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the next General Elections.

Each Peter contends that sufficient supporters are in his corner to ensure success in the internal elections.

So, as the leadership challenge unfolds, the PNP continues to be in the headlines. One could only wait for the final outcome of what can be considered an exciting contest between two contenders who believe they are the right choice for leadership of the 81-year old PNP ahead of the upcoming General Elections.

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Edna Manley College Principal Reveals More to Parliament Than College Board

Alaina Hull

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Edna Manley College is still being plagued by complaints of sexual harassment of students by a faculty member of the College, and no action being taken against him. In a strange development to this story, the Principal of the College, Dr. Nicholeen DeGrasse Johnson has revealed to a parliamentary committee that she had received a complaint about this lecturer, but had not initiated any serious inquiry into him to arrive at the truth. Moreover,  Marigold Harding, the Chairperson, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, has expressed surprise that the Principal chose to reveal this at the committee, but, has never informed her about it. Chairperson Harding feels the Principal will have to offer an explanation for her conduct.

Principal Queried Intensely at the PAAC

Principal DeGrasse Johnson was actually appearing before the PAAC in connection with the school’s accounts, contracts and whether the right procedures were being followed. One PAAC member, Leslie Campbell, however, started questioning her on this sexual harassment issue. It was during this questioning that the Principal revealed that it was one of the faculty members who had informed her as early as 2 years back that the students were complaining to her about a particular lecturer’s misconduct. While the right thing for her to have done at that time would have been to ask that faculty to obtain the complaints from the students in writing, she chose to let the issue pass. This fact came out during the questioning by the committee member.

School Management Taken Aback by the Principal’s Revelations

As mentioned, the immediate reaction from the Chairperson of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts has been one of shock. Harding says she and the Board of Management of the College have had several meetings in the past 2 years and never once had the Principal shared with her this information. Going further, the Chairperson has said there would be an emergency meeting of the Board on this issue and the Principal will be called in to answer to the Board on why she chose to speak the truth in front of the Parliament Committee and not to the Management of the College. The term used by Chairperson Harding is that the Principal has put herself in ‘jeopardy’. She expressed surprise that while there have been reports of sexual misconduct in the institution for so long, nobody from within the college had even informed her about it.

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Former PM Portia Simpson-Miller Denies Wanting to Make a Comeback

Alaina Hull

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Former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced in 2016, immediately after losing the elections, that she is retiring from active politics. True to her word, she has remained away from the political limelight all these years. Very recently, however, her name has been brought up with rumours of her being interested in the post of the President of the People’s National Party (PNP). However, she has denied these rumours and has clarified that though she wishes the party well, she would not take sides in the upcoming election of the PNP President. She expressed this via Twitter.

A Former PM, President of PNP

Portia Simpson-Miller served as the Prime Minister of Jamaica and was also the President of the People’s National Party. She lost the elections to now Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, in the 2016 General Elections and immediately after that, she withdrew herself from active roles in day to day politics. She was succeeded in the role of the President of the PNP by Dr. Peter Phillips. Interestingly, much in the manner in which Peter Bunting is challenging him now, Dr. Phillips had challenged Mrs. Simpson-Miller for the party President’s post. He did it twice and lost both times.

Former PM Simpson-Miller says her heart and soul is with the party and has asked her party co-workers to vote in the election keeping the best interest of the future of PNP in view. She has denied reports that she has taken any sides and is supporting either candidate.

Bunting’s Case Against Dr. Phillips

Mounting a challenge against the sitting President, Peter Bunting, currently, a Member of Parliament from Manchester Central, is trying to convince party rank and file that the party has not grown under Dr. Phillips’ leadership. Further, the difference in the ratings of his own popularity as the Opposition leader, vis-à-vis that of PM Andrew Holness has only widened. PNP’s chances of winning the general election are bleak compared to the ruling JLP’s.

The election is likely to be held in September, but some reports indicate there could be a preponement of the date if there appears to be bad blood affecting the image of the party.

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