East Rural St Andrew a national poppy show
As a concerned citizen and voter in the East Rural St Andrew constituency, I would like to draw public attention to what is happening there, and to pose questions being asked by voters who are baffled by recent events that culminated in the announcement of Imani Duncan-Price as the PNP candidate.
For the sake of perspective, let me state that I am a lifelong PNP voter, but I believe my views reflect those of many in the constituency from both sides of the political fence.
The latest selection exercise undertaken by the PNP to choose their candidate for the constituency in the upcoming elections saw first-term MP Damon Crawford matched against veteran community organiser and businessman Peter Blake. In what was described as a spirited but fair process, Blake won a by a comfortable margin, 217 to 166, in a vote of delegates in late September. Nothing unusual there.
Crawford, despite a high profile, media appeal and rising-star credentials, was disconnected from his constituents, and many observers like myself within east rural were not surprised by the result.
Before the applause for Blake had died down, rumours began to circulate that he might not be ratified as the candidate by the party's Integrity Commission. Strange that the PNP would have a member of their party campaign at that person's personal expense, run, win, then tell them that there may be integrity concerns. This was déjà vu for Blake, as the same thing happened in 2011, when he was summarily replaced by the party, mere weeks before the election.
In the latest episode, the constituency and the nation were treated to a slew of conflicting news stories, interviews, leaked information from unnamed sources, rumours, and innuendo that served only to confuse and cast doubt on the process.
The presumptive candidate, Blake, continued to encourage patience to his supporters, as he would (belatedly) face his party's Integrity Commission. Six weeks later, after Blake had met with the Integrity Commission, there are a number of irrefutable facts that are important to note.
1. The committee interviewed Blake, and after six weeks is yet to issue a report on its findings, unless one was made in secret.
2. Again, Blake has been removed; again without reason being given, and again without due process afforded him.
3. Again, an outsider, Duncan-Price, has been named, against the wishes of the delegates for the third successive time (2007, 2011 and 2015).
4. A loyal and hard-working son of East Rural St Andrew has been removed by a party that claims to support democracy but practises autocracy.
5. The selection process is now seen as a sham by these voters.
NOTHING BUT PAWNS
The feeling among Comrades on the ground is that they are simply pawns in a sick political game being played out behind closed doors at Old Hope Road. Deep-pocketed players have a firm grip on the process, and refuse to let go. They arrogantly believe the notion that Jamaica is 'PNP country', and the will of their voters can be overturned by their bosses.
There is a fatalistic atmosphere in East Rural among PNP and swing voters as well, because they have become accustomed to their constituency being used as a convenient way station for PNP royalty bent on fulfilling their dynastic ambitions. For example, in 2007, two-time MP Oliver Clue was swept aside after handsomely winning his selection race, to be replaced by a distracted and uninterested Mikael Phillips, who lost to the JLP candidate and quickly disappeared to more fertile and safe surroundings.
The PNP has continually created a problem in East Rural St Andrew when there was none. This may be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
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