A bunch of ‘duppies’! - Stakeholders bash St Thomas political representatives for lack of development
A former political candidate in St Thomas has charged that the parish has been failed by its elected leaders who have not done enough to advance the lot of the people.
Franklyn Sephestine, chairman of the St Thomas Parish Development Committee, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday that, "one big setback to the parish is the quality of representation that it has had over the years".
"Early in our political history, we had good representatives. Isaac Barrant was not a man of any great means but he was an outstanding representative on behalf of the people of Eastern St Thomas," said Sephestine.
"I believe there have been others. Robert Lightbourne, I hear the people in West (St Thomas) talk about him all the time. He did well. Everywhere I have gone in Western St Thomas people talk of Ken Clarke ... I think there are others who did well.
"I think Dr (Fenton) Ferguson has done a good job. He lacks the funds; he lacks the organisation and the push that he needs maybe from the people of St Thomas to move the process forward," said Sephestine, a former councillor for the Morant Bay division in the St Thomas Parish Council.
In the 16 general elections since adult suffrage in 1944, St Thomas has voted predominantly for Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) representatives, rejecting in one instance Sephestine, who offered himself as a People's National Party (PNP) candidate for Eastern St Thomas.
Eastern St Thomas has been represented for 26 of the 71 years of adult suffrage by the PNP. Ferguson has been the member of parliament for the last 21 years, having first been elected in 1993.
The PNP, however, has been less successful, winning only four of the 16 elections in the western side of the parish. Ken Clarke won the first in 1955, followed by Selvin Dewar in 1976, which was followed up by back-to-back wins in 1993 and 1997 by Anthony Hylton.
Augustus McPherson of the JLP who served West St Thomas for the first two terms before Clarke interrupted him, and then Robert Lightbourne, also of the JLP, who represented the constituency for 17 years from 1959 to 1976.
Errol Anderson became MP for West St Thomas in 1980 and continued until 1993 when Hylton spoilt his party. But after two terms, the people replaced Hylton with James Robertson, who has been serving since 2002.
In Eastern St Thomas, however, it has been a mainly JLP show. Barrant, after whom a health facility is named in the parish, was the first MP and served until 1959 when he handed over the baton to Lynden Newland, who was unbeaten until 1976. The JLP's Pearnel Charles then succeeded him and served until 1993 when he was ousted by Ferguson.
Dennis Maragh, the CDF consultant for Ferguson, said one problem facing Eastern St Thomas is the fact that its economy is rooted in the old plantation system.
He said Ferguson has been working overtime to improve the educational, social and economic life of the people in his constituency.
"Some people are trying," Maragh said, while adding that Ferguson is numbered among those.
But for Dorrett Abrahams, secretary of the St Thomas Parish Development Committee, powerful members of the Cabinet who have more than an umbilical link to parish should be doing more for the place of their birth.
"When you think that we have the Honourable Anthony Hylton, he is a son of St Thomas; you have Minister (Phillip) Paulwell, he is a son of St Thomas; former Prime Minister (P.J.) Patterson, your father was from St Thomas, you used to holiday in Morant Bay ... the will is not there to look after the people," charged Abrahams.
Cardovan Jackson, the principal of Paul Bogle High School, also questioned whether there is the political will to transform the parish. He said that the practice over the years has been to make grandiose promises for development, many of which are yet to materialise.
The minister of industry, investment and commerce has also announced that the old Goodyear factory in Morant Bay is to become a film park, a proposal which is yet to materialise.