JLP reviews Central Westmoreland whupping
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
As the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) begins its reflection on last week's crushing defeat in Central Westmoreland, news has come that a former general secretary of the party, Karl Samuda, has suggested that his party stop fooling itself about election success in Westmoreland.
In the aftermath of last Monday's 2,452-vote mauling of Faye Reid Jacobs by the People's National Party's (PNP) Dwayne Vaz in the by-election held to choose a replacement for the late Roger Clarke, Samuda reportedly penned a letter to the party in which he said harbouring thoughts of beating the PNP in the parish amounts to "delusions of grandeur".
But J.C. Hutchinson, the JLP deputy leader for Area Council 4, has rejected that, arguing that "there is no constituency - no matter how it appears hard and tough - that cannot be won".
According to JLP sources, in his letter to the party functionaries, Samuda said significant effort was put into the campaign for Central Westmoreland despite the known lack of resources and relatively diminished level of organisation on the ground.
"Unfortunately, but predictably, the results proved disappointing, especially for those who continue to engage in delusions of grandeur about our prospects in the parish of Westmoreland," the sources say Samuda added.
"I have taken the time to do a quick analysis of the results and compared them with those of 2011. The figures do not reveal any unusual activities across the constituency sufficient to raise alarm bells in terms of fraudulent behaviour by the PNP. Of course, the on-the-ground experience may well reveal a different picture.
"Many lessons can be learned from this exercise, but in order to get the full benefits, we must be prepared to separate anecdotal evidence from educated fact-based realities … . Nothing less will work in the long and difficult task ahead," Samuda reportedly said.
He has reportedly requested that arrangements be made to convene a team to engage in a "careful examination of all factors pertaining to the staging of this event from start to finish, making sure to document all elements involved for use as a guide for the future".
That examination is expected to begin today when the party's Central Executive meets for the first time since its annual conference.
That meeting is expected to deal with the election of officers, including chairman and general secretary, who are expected to be returned en bloc unless there is a fallout from the poor showing in the by-election.
However, Hutchinson has some answers for that defeat. He said he thought Reid Jacobs had a chance but was let down by weak organisation.
"In our canvass, we saw that the voters are there," said Hutchinson, while adding that the party projected taking out up to 10,000 Labourites, something that has never been achieved in the history of the constituency.
The most votes polled by the JLP in Central Westmoreland was 8,633 by Russell Hammond in 2007. Marlene Malahoo Forte then polled 8,522 in 2011, both in losing efforts against Roger Clarke.
"The organisation was not in place as we would have liked and many of the JLP voters just did not decide to come out at all," Hutchinson said.
He placed the responsibility of getting the structure up and running at the feet of the five councillor caretakers, four of whom are new.
"We had persons who were there before and they decided that they are not going to run again so we had to put new persons in the divisions. We had vacancies in some, which also included the constituency, where Ms Jacobs came in late, so it was one where the voters were there but we didn't have the personnel to get the structure going as we wanted it to," Hutchinson said.
In addition, the JLP deputy leader said unmet demands from supporters that they be paid for their votes contributed to the defeat.
"One of the things that were very eye-opening in this election is that quite a number of persons wanted some assistance before they came out to vote. I have been in politics very long and it is the first time I have seen the culture reach to such a level where so many voters are looking a handout to go out and vote.
"It is amazing. Some of them called me indicating what and what they wanted to get people to come and vote," Hutchinson told The Sunday Gleaner.