The first of Jamaica’s three political debates is over. The dust has now settled. Who is still standing? This writer says #TeamPNP. Tonight’s round saw the PNP’s Lisa Hanna, Dr. Dayton Campbell and Raymond Pryce up against the JLP’s Sen. Warren Newby, Sen. Marlene Malahoo-Forte and Dr. Sapphire Longmore. The country was to have been treated to a battle of wit highlighting issues of a socio-economic nature from the youth perspective; unfortunately the “young” debaters betrayed that they are well schooled in the old style of politics; combative and nakedly partisan.
While I give the nod to #TeamPNP, I am severely disappointed in Raymond Pryce. Even though he was knowledgeable, eloquent and stuck to his party’s script, Mr. Pryce came across as too combative. His jabs at Senator Malahoo Forte were distasteful and contributed to the general “tracing” match which seemed to ensue at times. Lisa Hanna was brilliant as ever. Articulate, calm, poised and knowledgeable. She acted as a good balance between Pryce’s rudeness and Dr. Campbell’s general silence. Campbell, for what it was worth, played his part well. He stuck to his guns and spoke to what he knew. As a team, this trio was more effective and better able to articulate their position.
The JLP’s trio took far too long to get it’s footing. Senator Newby came out timid and unsure while Dr. Longmore fumbled over herself quite too often. During the first half, I was unsure as to what Senator Malahoo-Forte’s purpose was. She was as silent as mouse. When she finally spoke, it was emotive pleading. Seeing she is a former Resident Magistrate, one would have expected a more forceful and concise presentation from her, that was not to be the case. I got the impression she was sent to lay bare her feminine charm in hopes that Jamaica would be swayed. Still, Pryce’s attacks on her may have served to soften the public’s perception of her performance tonight. We’ll see how the public reacts.
Besides the personalities, there was a general deficit with dealing with the issues. At the end, I didn’t get a sense of what these young minds hoped to contribute in ensuring Jamaica was moved forward in a stable and effective manner. It appeared to me that there were prepared answers and statistics which were injected at whatever point they seemed most feasible. We got a lot of the blame game and not enough answers and solutions. Make no mistake, this election must be about solutions. I urge all well thinking Jamaicans to look at the issues of the economy, look at the social service; education, health, housing etc etc. Focus on governance issues, transparency, accountability. This election may be the most crucial in a long time. Again, I must state my disappointment that the debate didn’t progress in a more courteous and mature manner. It would have certainly lent itself to the “new style” of politics that we’ve been hearing about so often lately. As young leaders, it was incumbent upon this six to demonstrate a willingness and courage to step outside of the old mould and demonstrate a real commitment to changing the way politicians do things in this country.
So Round One is over. Team PNP demonstrated a better grasp of the issues, there was better teamwork and a more confident presentation. Who will take Round Two? Finance Minister Audley Shaw faces Opposition Spokesman Dr. Peter Phillips on Thursday Decemeber 15, 2011; don’t miss it.