PNP rejects 5
PJ says party had concerns potential candidates had links with suspected drug dealers
Friday, February 08, 2002
THE ruling People's National Party (PNP) has rejected at least five potential election candidates, notwithstanding their support from constituency organisations, because of the concern of the central leadership over their links with alleged drug dealers, the party's president, P J Patterson, disclosed yesterday.
At the same time, the PNP leadership is now contemplating its relationship with another individual -- who is apparently not a candidate but close to the party -- because of concern over his activities, Patterson told editors at a briefing at Vale Royal, the official residence of the prime minister.
Patterson, however, declined to name the rejected candidates, the individual now under scrutiny or to identify either the constituencies or communities in which they were active.
Patterson, who will, in May, mark his 10th year as prime minister, was responding to questions from journalists about whether Jamaican political parties have done enough to create distance between themselves and people involved in crime and violence, including the so-called community leaders in inner-city communities.
While saying that there were people in the party who were "stigmatised as dons without any evidence or intelligence" to suggest they were involved in criminal behaviour, Patterson conceded that it was important for parties, including his own, to create distance between themselves and shady characters.
"I believe that for those persons who are known to be involved in criminal conduct, the political party must do everything it can to distance itself and dissociate itself from their activities," the prime minister said.
It was in this context that he mentioned "at least one case" which "we have been agonising over" how to deal with the individual because of questions raised over his activities.
Pressed later about the apparent lack of rigour with which the parties, including the PNP, approached the lingering relationship between themselves and the enforcers of the past and the more recently emerged chieftains, Patterson rejected that this was the case.
"There are at least five constituencies in the island where we have chosen persons other than those who were regarded by the constituency organisation as front-runners because we were not satisfied with their associations," the PNP president said. "For persons involved in criminal associations the party must not compromise."
At the same time, Patterson argued that parties, particularly the PNP, could not be held accountable for people who exercised their democratic right to support, and neither could it attempt to hound people out of the organisation because of rumour.
"There are some big business people who, from time to time people will come and tell you that they are in drugs," Patterson said. "I can't act on it because somebody comes and tells you so."
He said he acted on the basis of evidence and intelligence, suggesting that there was often an attempt by many in the society to apply different yardsticks, depending on the social positions of the accused.
Asked specifically about the alleged drug connections of the principals of a business group that is close to the PNP and the recipient of government contracts, Patterson responded: "There is no information or intelligence that they are involved in anything other than legitimate business."
The prime minister agreed, too, that political parties had to be particularly careful of receiving campaign and other contributions from drug traffickers and said that it was becoming urgent for the matter of state election funding to be placed on the agenda for debate.
In the case of the PNP, Patterson explained that at the constituency level the issue of dealing with campaign contributions was largely in the hands of the local organisation, but with the stipulation from headquarters that "they are not to receive money from illicit sources".
"At party central, whenever there is a contribution we have a process of vetting to ensure that it is not coming with any contamination and that it is not coming from any illicit sources," Patterson said.
He, acknowledged, however, that tainted money need not come directly into the party, which underlined the need for vigilance.
But, added Patterson: "At some point in the country we are going to have to confront the issue of campaign contributions in a frontal way."