Current Affairs

Current Affairs



PJ says he's fit and ready
PNP committed to peaceful election, says Patterson
Observer Reporter
Friday, September 06, 2002



Young supporters greet Prime Minister P J Patterson during a tour of the South-East St Andrew constituency yesterday afternoon. (Photo: John Nicholson)

PRIME Minister P J Patterson yesterday declared the election fully on and himself fully fit to endure the race, after new questions surfaced about his health on Wednesday when aides forced him to leave a hot room, apparently fearing that he would fall ill.

"I am prepared to release all my medical records so that the people of Jamaica can judge and anybody who questions whether I have the stamina or not," Patterson told PNP supporters on Deanery Road, during a whistle stop through the constituency of South-East St Andrew.

"Catch me if you can!" Patterson dared the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Patterson's People's National Party (PNP), completing an unprecedented third consecutive term in office, is hoping to be elected to a fourth in the general election that he is expected to call soon.

Patterson also reiterated his intent to run a clean, violence-free campaign.

Yesterday's swing through South-East St Andrew with the PNP's candidate Maxine Henry-Wilson, was the first of a series of whistle stop meetings the PNP has planned over the next several weeks. Until now, Patterson has been addressing mass meetings, rather than these smaller sessions where he can mingle with the crowd and press flesh with potential voters.

South-East St Andrew, where the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party's candidate is Philip Henriques, is considered important to either party in the elections, although the PNP has the advantage. In the 1997 general elections it was won by the PNP's Easton Douglas, with 5,697 votes to 3,236 for the JLP's Harold Brady. But then, only 59 per cent of the electorate turned out, and swings against the PNP since the last election, captured in recent opinion polls, have made the seat one to which analysts have paid attention. The volatile character of parts of the constituency has added to the attention it has received.

But during yesterday's tour -- less than 24 hours after he had to leave the baking auditorium of the new Rex Nettleford Hall of Residence at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies to remove his tie and jacket -- Patterson was upbeat, often mocking the JLP.

"The first time my campaign vehicle is coming back on the road since the last election," the prime minister quipped at one stop. "I am very pleased to start my road campaign in South-East St Andrew. We are starting in the constituency ... of my teacher and political leader Norman Manley."

At another stop, Patterson told supporters: "We are committed to running a peaceful campaign ... I know that the Labour Party has targeted this area. I tell dem, dem draw bad card... We are the mighty and the powerful. We are invincible."

He also ridiculed the JLP's manifesto, with its promise of a big package of social and public works spending as just that -- promises.

"We are committed to deal with the issues, not to offer vague promises that they know they will never be given an opportunity to fulfil," Patterson declared. "...The Labour Party is in an enviable position that they can promise to do anything; to build more of this, to give more of that and reduce taxes at the same time, because they know that deep down that they will never have the chance," he said.

Yesterday's tour culminated at the Nannyville cultural centre where again Patterson addressed residents, who he noted were beneficiaries of the Sites and Services community upgrading programme in the 1970s -- that they should be wary of the JLP's manifesto.

"When they [JLP] came into power [in 1980] one of the first things they did was to shut down the sites and services," Patterson said. "I could not believe my eyes when I opened their manifesto and learnt that they are planning to revive the Sites and Services that they killed, that they buried and that they condemned -- dust to dust and ashes to ashes."

In presenting Henry-Wilson to the constituents, Patterson said: "This is my sister in whom I am very pleased. You take care of her and send her back... as an elected representative in this constituency."