PNP, JLP joint agreement possible

KINGSTON, Jamaica – An end to the latest round of the bitterly fought dual-citizenship battle raging between the governing Jamaica Labour Party and the Opposition People’s National Party is looming large, with an outcome likely to materialise as early as this week.

A seemingly re-energised PNP signalled Wednesday that it was in the process of hammering out an agreement with the JLP.

Such a resolution would be a welcome respite for the PNP ahead of the July 24 court hearing in the North West Clarendon dual-citizenship affair, involving the JLP’s Michael Stern and the Opposition party’s Richard Azan.

No interest in contesting

Azan, the defeated candidate in the 2007 general election, brought the case against Stern, who won the seat that year, but has signalled that he has no interest in contesting a by-election if one is ordered by the court.

Though the talks have been shrouded in secrecy, PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill told The Gleaner he was awaiting information from the JLP.

“I am not in a position to comment on the matter at this time,” Pickersgill said, pointing out that his party had pledged not to speak publicly on the issue.

The Gleaner has learnt that high-level talks, aimed at resolving the dual-citizenship impasse involving sitting parliamentary representatives from both parties, are at a delicate stage.

“Yes, the talks have started. A conversation is taking place,” a PNP insider said.

The matter reportedly surfaced at Tuesday’s executive meeting of the PNP, but no details were forthcoming.

In the meantime, JLP General Secretary Karl Samuda was guarded in his comments when contacted by The Gleaner. He noted that it was his party that had initiated the discussions to resolve the dual-citizenship dispute.

“I am not aware that anything has progressed beyond what was discussed months ago … we have had no definitive decision from the PNP.”

However, other well-placed JLP insiders say the interest shown by the PNP has injected renewed energy in the discussions and expressed optimism that the matter could be resolved shortly.

Under pressure

The latest development suggests the leadership of the PNP has buckled under the pressure being applied, by a growing number of influential persons within the party, to surrender the fight for additional seats through the courts and concentrate on building its flagging image as a viable political alternative.

After refusing to retreat for nearly two years, the PNP finally agreed to engage the JLP in the talks, following loud rumblings within the party that it should not be focusing on elections at this time, but instead should be seeking to repair its image.