No showdown in much Anticipated Debate between Leaders
KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – The much anticipated leadership debate between the leader of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Portia Simpson Miller, the person seeking his job at the November 29 general election, did not live up to expectations, according to most analysts.
Political analyst, Shalman Scott, said based on the responses to the questions during the television debate that was also shown in several Caribbean countries and in some parts of the United States, there was no clear top winner.
“I think that is a difficult question to answer, there was nothing new. Both of them have strong points and weak points, call it a tie,” Scott said.
But commentator Judith Wedderburn gave a more critical response. She believes both leaders were lacking in some areas.
“Yes, both (had) strong points, both (had) weak points, nothing new, no surprises. I was a little distressed about Mr. Holness’ insistence on promoting himself so much and there were a couple of things on Mrs. Simpson Miller’s side that I wish she had been stronger on.
“I wouldn’t say either of them won anything,” she added.
University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer, Professor Rupert Lewis, said Simpson-Miller, the leader of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) performed better than she has in past debates.
“On the realistic side of politics, I think Andrew was very good in terms of his idealism, but given the crisis that we have I think there was more realism and more political appreciation of our situation (from Simpson Miller) than I got from Holness. I give Simpson Miller the edge,” he said.
Several callers to programmes aired both on radio and television following the debate, the third organised by the Jamaica Debates Commission ahead of the election, were of the opinion that the anticipated showdown did not materialize.
Holness and Simpson Miller were questioned on matters ranging from job creation, plans to deal with corruption and the economy. But it was the question of appointing homosexuals in the Cabinet that seemed to make the rounds in media circles.
According to the Simpson-Miller, the island’s first ever woman prime minister, she would have no problem with appointing gays to her government.
She said no one should be discriminated against another based on sexual orientation and that legislators should be appointed based on their ability.
For his part, Holness was less committed, saying that his position would be guided by the desire of the country. However he said Jamaica would continue to protect the civil and human rights of all citizens.
Both leaders also sought to highlight what their respective parties had to offer.
Simpson Miller cited the PNP’s role in major infrastructural development, the passing of 12 consecutive tests set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while it was in office, record levels of divestment and employment remaining at single digit.
But Holness, who took over the leadership of the government in October after Bruce Golding unexpectedly stepped down from government and politics, said he believed he was “called to serve the people of my country.
“I have dedicated my life to this for youth,” he said, describing himself as "humbled and privileged" to be afforded the opportunity to serve the people of Jamaica.
Holness also sold himself as "the new generation of leaders" who guarantee continuing change and improvement in society.
"Jamaica should produce post Independence leader of opportunities and chances," he added.
The Electoral Office said 150 candidates have been nominated to contest the election with both the JLP and the PNP each nominating 63 candidates.
The National Democratic Movement (NDM) which was founded by the former JLP leader and prime minister Bruce Golding in 1995, has formed an alliance with the Marcus Garvey People's Progressive Party (MGPPP) in nominating 17 candidates. The Jamaica Alliance Movement (JAM), has nominated Ras Astor Black as its sole candidate.
There are also six independents that will face the electorate on November 29 to fill the 63 seats in the Parliament.