Peter vs. Peter: The Political Double Jeopardy Case

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Dear Editor,

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Jamaican political arena may just have preempted the Wray & Nephew’s start of this Summer’s The Contenders boxing series by staging the first bout of the season with a Peter vs Peter heavy  & middleweight title clash (pun intended). Admittedly, some political pundits would have not anticipated this clash so soon on the cards; however the seemingly low political “jabs” and touting by the challenger has somewhat created a precedented lead up to another leadership challenge within the People’s National Party. Notwithstanding the anticipated clash, the possible incumbent is heavily relying on what will be phrased as the “Political Double Jeopardy” to deflect any possible fight come September.

According to U.S. v. Helper 490 U.S. 435, 440 (1989) “The Double Jeopardy Clause” protects against three distinct abuses:(1) A second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal; (2) A second prosecution for the same offense after conviction and (3) multiple punishments for the same offense. For the purpose of this article, I would like to argue the first reason given for the usage of the Double Jeopardy Clause i.e. to avoid a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal. The incumbent, Dr. Peter Phillips, let me hasten to say as far as I am aware has not been criminally charged for an offense which he has been acquitted; rather the comparison I seek to draw from this legal analogy is that Phillips has been convicted many times by his own delegates for his passive approach to leadership. They have more established his role in the party as a financial guru, the chief of staff to the leader especially under the P.J Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller administration. Therefore, based on his own approach, Dr. Phillips did not gain the political zeal his predecessors have or display an ability to galvanize the party base which is a resonating feature of a political leader in the Caribbean; they must be able to energize their base. Frankly speaking, Dr. Phillips has not yet demonstrated a true ability to mobilize his followers and the last two constituency bi-elections are proof towards that end.

After the 2016 general election, the People’s National Party having lost to the Jamaica Labour Party, sought to re-assess their political tactics and rumours were abound about a possible leadership challenge. However, factually speaking, Dr. Phillips challenged Mrs. Portia Simpson-Miller twice for the leadership of the party in the years 2006 and 2008, both of which he was unsuccessful in unseating her. It was therefore unlikely that he would have stayed a 3rd bid for leadership. In 2017, Mrs. Simpson Miller stepped aside as party leader and virtually handed over the reigns to Dr. Phillips.

Fast forward to 2019, the current challenger, Mr. Peter Bunting, in making his case against Dr. Phillips wants to prosecute him for indecisive leadership, poor management and disconnecting with the party base. These reasons may very well be credible but the question remains; didn’t Dr. Phillips receive his acquittal in 2017, when he was handed leadership unopposed? I put it to proper reasoning that Dr. Phillips, more than any other senior member of the PNP hierarchy, had his “starburst” (pun intended) taken from him too many times and by virtue of his patience in the second position, it would only be fair to give him a chance at the top job. Essentially, Dr. Peter Phillips was acquitted of his wrongs.

Alas! While we cry Double Jeopardy for Dr. Phillips cause, while we understand what he does bring and doesn’t bring to the table, we are intrigued by his challenger, Mr. Bunting. I would like to argue that his challenge should not be taken lightly and his political strategy is well known to be effective having been General Secretary for the PNP in their 2011 General Election landslide win over the JLP. Additionally, his financial and daring tactics give him an even heavier weighted punch. Unfortunately, I realize that no gavel will be knocked on this political ruling for Dr. Phillips but he must now be prepared to knock political fists with his challenger for this decorated crown. Ding ! Ding!

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