Tue | Aug 11, 2020

PNP hunts votes one-on-one - COVID-19 dooms mass meetings; Phillips demands no vote under SOE

Published:Monday | June 15, 2020 | 12:24 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
PNP President Dr Peter Phillips salutes supporters during an address to a special conference of prospective candidates at the Faculty of Law Lecture Theatre of The University of the West Indies on Sunday.
PNP President Dr Peter Phillips salutes supporters during an address to a special conference of prospective candidates at the Faculty of Law Lecture Theatre of The University of the West Indies on Sunday.

People’s National Party (PNP) Campaign Director Phillip Paulwell believes that COVID-19 restrictions will transform political and canvassing strategy in Jamaica as the country prepares for a general election constitutionally due by February 2021.

Citing that coronavirus social-distancing protocols would discount the organising of large motorcades and mass meetings because of contagion concerns, Paulwell said he expected a paradigm shift focused on a more surgical targeting of voting blocs. Paulwell added that party strategists would be disaggregating data to inform electioneering tactics.

“We are entering full campaign mode. You are going to see a difference in our activities on the ground,” he told The Gleaner on Sunday.

“We will be doing more one-and-one, more training of our workers, and so on,” the campaign director stressed.

Paulwell said that all 63 prospective candidates for the party were now in place.

“They are doing their canvassing. They are now deploying the new app system that we now have in place where we are focusing a lot more on analytics. The candidates and their campaign managers are saying to us, when the date is announced, they will proceed to win,” Paulwell said, adding that the party would be ready if an election were called now.

CAUTIONED TO STICK TO WORD

Meanwhile, PNP President Dr Peter Phillips has warned the Holness administration to hold to its word that a general election will not be held while states of emergency (SOEs) are operational.

Phillips’ comment coincided with the imposition of SOEs in Kingston Central and Kingston Western, which bring to 10 the number of police divisions under emergency powers.

The crackdown has come in the wake of a spike in murders in both regions, with killings up by more than 50 per cent in Kingston Central and almost doubling in Kingston Western.

The SOEs will last for 14 days.

Pressed by The Gleaner as to whether he would feel comfortable campaigning under SOEs given that the prime minister has said that they might be in effect for up to seven years to make a major dent in crime, Phillips held firm that the electorate should not be fettered by extraordinary security powers.

The last time an election was called under a state of emergency was in 1976 by Michael Manley, the then prime minister and PNP president.

READY TO RULE

Phillips said there was fervour in the ranks of the PNP and that organisers are ready to deny the JLP a second consecutive term in office.

“The Comrades are fired up. We are ready to go,” Phillips told The Gleaner as he disclosed that the meeting facilitated the sharing of campaign strategy.

According to Phillips, the PNP was eager to boot the JLP from office as there was a growing sense of crisis in the country “... and a sharp recognition of the mismanagement to which the country is being subjected and a broad desire to see and feel a more positive approach to governance that doesn’t languish in constant abuse of public funds”.

“We feel it on the ground,” he added.

The PNP president also raised concerns about what he perceived to be a growing abuse of power by JLP-led municipal corporations. Phillips argued that the expulsion of PNP councillors Sylvan Reid and Gladstone Bent was emblematic of a pattern of overreach, citing the controversial $46-million sanitisation contract in St Ann as part of a narrative of wanton excess.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com