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Has Mr Andrew Holness outmanoeuvred

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Mr P J Patterson's vaunted mastery of the political environment appears to have been passed on to not another member of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), but the leader of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, Mr Andrew Holness.

In the war of words over the PNP's vote against extending the state of public emergency (SOE) in three parishes, Mr Holness has controlled the narrative and put the Opposition on the back foot.

As sacrilegious as it might sound to those who live in “PNP country”, the younger Mr Holness has decidedly outmanoeuvred Dr Phillips and made himself appear to be the crusader against crime.

Mr Holness had seen signs that Dr Phillips, relying on the cry of the public defender against the conditions of in which SOE detainees in St James are held, would move against extending the SOES in St James, Northern St Catherine and West Kingston and other parts of the Corporate Area.

Mr Holness could have called the belated meeting with the Opposition Leader earlier to discuss extending the SOE, but he, like the astute politician he has become, saw an opportunity. Let the PNP vote against it and take the flak.

Obviously, the majority of the populace, breathing a sigh of relief that murders have fallen dramatically, would be against the removal of the SOE before any solid plans had been put in place to hold the criminals at bay. Dr Phillips walked right into the trap.

By so decisively controlling the narrative Mr Holness deftly moved the discussion away from the Petrojam debacle that had consumed the nation immediately before the SOE vote, and which had the panic-stricken JLP scurrying for a credible response.

The prime minister's promise of a forensic audit hardly moved the needle in the direction of the JLP. That might have emboldened Dr Phillips to go after the SOES, believing that he was holding the handle and Mr Holness the blade.

By that ill-fated vote, the PNP managed to turn the tide against itself. Overnight, the pendulum swung towards Mr Holness and the JLP. Constitutional jargon will never win the day over people's legitimate fears for their lives at the hands of marauding criminals.

Jamaicans know that it is not right to have so many young men — a good number of them clearly innocent in detention for an inordinate length of time. But they also know that the answer is not to take away the tool that has put murderous gunmen to flight, without a credible alternative. What's the rush?

What would have worked better would have been a meeting of the Government and Opposition with the national security community to determine how best to speed up the process of releasing innocent young men whose lives might be unravelling and to prevent a potential build-up of more hate against the State.

Dr Phillips might be advised to take a seat at the feet of the PNP's Gamaliel if he hopes at some point soon to defeat the increasingly wily Mr Holness.