Gregory Mair (left), Jamaica Labour Party candidate and winner of Tuesday’s by-election in North East St Catherine, celebrates with supporters in the constituency on election day. – Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
The wounded People’s National Party (PNP) is in further crisis today as major disagreements have emerged among senior members over whether it should contest any other by-election which might be called because of the dual citizenship court ruling.
“Within the party, and it has been no secret, we have been debating what our positions should be. The truth is that we are almost as divided as the rest of Jamaica as to whether a political party, if you can’t win, should you go,” a senior member of the PNP told The Gleaner.
“We had taken a decision that we would decide on the other by-elections on an individual basis,” the PNP official added.
Not eligible to sit
Already, the party has been spanked by the Jamaica Labour Party in two by-elections called, after the court ruled that the sitting members of parliament were not eligible to sit in the House of Representatives because they had dual nationality at the time they were nominated for the 2007 general election.
It is widely expected that similar rulings will be made against government MPs Shahine Robinson – North East St Ann, and Michael Stern – North West Clarendon.
Two Opposition MPs, Sharon Hay-Webster – South Central St Catherine, and Ian Hayles – Western Hanover, could also find themselves in trouble because of their alleged dual citizenship.
PNP sources say, with the four possible by-elections, there is a growing faction in the party that is urging the leadership not to contest the polls.
Renounce, resign, re-elect
“Let us accept the offer which was on the table, that the two parties would agree that persons with dual citizenship will renounce, resign and be re-elected without contest,” argues a member of the group, who says the party should not contest the by-elections.
However, the other faction is adamant that the PNP should be on the ballot, particularly in North West Clarendon, where they believe Richard Azan will have a good chance of beating Stern.
“We don’t have to win the four by-elections. We just need to win one, and that one is Stern’s seat, which is there for the taking,” a member of that faction claims.
They say veteran politician and well-respected organiser, Dr D.K. Duncan, has already been selected as the general who will lead the party’s battle to unseat Stern.
But the JLP has scoffed at the PNP’s claim that it can unseat Stern or any other sitting government MP.
JLP leader, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, has also warned that his party is prepared to go after the two PNP seats in question.
“We have evidence that the question of foreign citizenship is not confined to the government side. We have given instructions to our lawyers to file constitutional motions seeking a declaration based on the same principle that was established in the Daryl Vaz case,” Golding told journalists recently.