Raymond Pryce selection race in tailspin!
THE BITTER selection contest in St Elizabeth North East between incumbent Raymond Pryce and challenger Evon Redman has taken a new turn.
The matter is now in the hands of Justice Bryan Sykes, who will this morning rule if supporters of Pryce have satisfied the court with enough proof that Redman is not qualified to challenge the member of parliament.(MP)
Pryce, a first-time MP, is being challenged for the leadership of the constituency and the right to represent the People's National Party (PNP) in the upcoming general election widely expected to be held before year-end.
Late last evening, the Gleaner was told that at the eleventh hour, supporters of Pryce were successful in getting Sykes to hear the matter. Sykes granted a 28-day injunction, but the parties have been urged to be in court tomorrow for it to be heard and a final declaration to be made.
The action is filed against general secretary Paul Burke, who has been asked by Sykes to attend today's hearing at 9 a.m.
Earlier, sources told The Gleaner that the leadership of the party were locked in a meeting at Vale Royal to discuss the contentious matter which has caused bitter divisions in the constituency.
Constituency could by bitterly divided
Among those persons backing Pryce's right to remain the party's candidate is Daphne Holmes, former mayor of Black River. Holmes, on Tuesday, wrote to PNP general secretary Paul Burke warning that the constituency "will be bitterly divided" if steps are not taken to remedy issues relating to the selection exercise. Holmes also charged that Redman is not a member of a group, and thus under the PNP's constitution is not eligible for election.
Holmes is contending that Redman is a member of a group that will not be recognised by the party as it has not been in existence for the minimum seven months. The former mayor also charged that many persons who are listed on the delegates' voters' list have long died and that the constituency secretary has not filed minutes or records of groups.
"The constituency of North East St Elizabeth is a recognised constituency, yet the executive of the constituency or the secretary has not signed off on the voters' list, which should have been sent out two weeks prior to the elections," Holmes said in her letter to Burke, PNP chairman Robert Pickersgill, and party president Portia Simpson Miller.
Redman told the Gleaner that the charges were frivolous.
"I am a member of a group. Who is not a member is Pryce. He is surely not a member of any group in North East St Elizabeth. It is not a major thing because there are a number of persons who have been given the opportunity to run without being members of the party," Redman said.
North East St Elizabeth should have had its selection conference last week but it was pushed back to this weekend. It is understood that, among other things, the lawyers are heading to court with funeral programmes of people who died over one year ago but are listed as delegates.
One of Pryce's supporters, Angela Forbes Wright, told The Gleaner that the constituency secretary and general secretary should have made sure the list is current.
"The constituency secretary should have made sure that the delegates' list is up to date for things like migration and deaths and other things. That is between the constituency secretary and the general secretary," Forbes Wright told The Gleaner.
According to her, some of the people on the list have been dead for as long as three years, and the list should have been cleaned annually.
However, The Gleaner understands that the delegates' list was provided from early August and the candidates should have signed off at the end of August.
Neither Pryce nor Redman raised any concerns, The Gleaner was told.
According to the party's constitution, the general secretary shall keep and maintain a register of all groups and members. A provisional group shall consist of all least six persons and eligible for membership in the party if it is active for at least seven months.
Meanwhile, the race to determine who will represent the PNP in St Ann South East has also been postponed.
General Secretary Paul Burke told The Gleaner that September 26 is being considered for the contest between incumbent Lisa Hanna and challenger Lydia Richards, councillor for the Bensonton Division in the constituency.
Tensions have been high in the constituency and supporters of both have traded barbs.
The party will go into its 77th annual conference next weekend.