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PNP can win next election, Crawford tells Comrades

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-large
South/Central Bureau

Sunday, May 26, 2019

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Opposition Senator Damion Crawford wants People's National Party (PNP) supporters to reject suggestions from analysts and others that the PNP can't win the next parliamentary elections, constitutionally due by 2021.

Crawford told Comrades at a recent divisional conference in Mandeville that history had shown that such talk was “madness”.

The popular Crawford, who lost a by-election in Portland Eastern once considered a safe PNP seat to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) Ann-Marie Vaz in early April, identified unexpected losses for the PNP in national elections over the last 12 years to underline his point.

“In 2007, Portia (Simpson Miller, president of the PNP and prime minister at the time) couldn't lose, and she lost...,” Crawford recalled.

The same thing happened in 2016, he said.

Crawford argued that various factors came together to ensure the JLP's victory in the Portland Eastern by-election, including the governing party's incumbency which facilitated its use of State resources to advantage. Also, he said, there was overwhelming monetary support for the ruling JLP from the business sector, which saw no advantage in supporting an opposition party in a by-election.

Much would change in a general parliamentary election, said Crawford, since the business sector even while being likely to give more money to the ruling party would also “hedge its bets... just to make sure” by giving support to the Opposition campaign.

In the Portland Eastern by-election Vaz gained 9,989 votes, more than 3,000 in excess of the votes gained by that party in losing the 2016 parliamentary elections.

Crawford garnered 9,670 votes, over 1,000 more than was gained by the late Dr Lynvale Bloomfield who had won the seat by over 2,000 votes in 2016.

Last month's by-election coincided with a number of opinion polls which showed the JLP and its leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, well ahead of the PNP and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips in approval ratings, despite several corruption scandals which have afflicted the Government.

In addition to criticising the Holness Administration for alleged corrupt practices and for an overreliance on states of public emergency to fight crime, Crawford drew attention to extreme inequalities and social ills facing Jamaicans.

He pointed to the inadequacies in the education system, with many schools — including those at the primary level — still on the shift system.

He questioned how it was that the Government was placing priority on a new Parliament building when so many schools were still on the shift system and only a fraction of the total number of high schools could assure a 50 per cent chance of students succeeding in final external exams.

Crawford insisted that a PNP Government would have to address the controversial contract employment system, whenever it returns to power.

He questioned the values now prevalent in the Jamaican society with money seemingly more important than such qualities as integrity.


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