CHAOS - PNP pickle as Comrades jostle for positions
There has been no word yet out of the People's National Party (PNP) following an emergency officers meeting called late last Friday, but party insiders say the leadership is struggling to deal with internal rifts threatening to tear it apart.
According to insiders, the spate of challenges to sitting members of parliament (MPs) is unprecedented. The leadership is surprised at how loud, boisterous and contentious these challenges have been.
Last week, PNP Chairman Robert Pickersgill sought to downplay the seriousness of the internal contests, which are becoming increasingly nasty, as he labelled them "the workings of a democratic party".
But even Pickersgill's positive outlook has not been able to ease the consternation and confusion brought about by verbal attacks, protests, petitions, complaints and even court action.
With battle lines drawn left, right and centre, PNP vice-president in charge of Region Six, Derrick Kellier, told The Sunday Gleaner that there will be replacement candidates in the western end of the island.
"East Central St James and North West St James will have new candidates in the upcoming election, but we have not yet signed off fully on the rest," said Kellier, without naming the new candidates.
"We will hear by Sunday (today) what is the position in these constituencies," promised Kellier.
He asserted that even with the uncertainties, the organisation on the ground is prepared and the process far advanced.
"It is just that we have not signed off on the standard-bearers for those constituencies," Kellier added.
Veteran MP Dr D.K. Duncan is among those to be replaced, and there are indications that Lloyd B. Smith, the MP for Central St James, could be out in the cold as well, even though he has indicated that he is ready to contest the next election.
"As is well known, Dr D.K. Duncan has expressed his intention not to contest in Eastern Hanover, so there will be a new candidate," said Kellier, who oversees the 10 constituencies in Westmoreland, Trelawny and St James for the PNP.
According to Kellier, despite the challenges, the PNP is poised to do well in his region.
"I am very positive that if an election is called now, we will be able to take home the majority of the 10 seats in the region," he said.
But with the turmoil raging in the PNP, party insiders are worried that Kellier's positive outlook is merely political rhetoric.
The insiders point to Raymond Pryce, the feisty, first-term parlia-mentarian who is being challenged by Evon Redman in North East St Elizabeth.
Sitting East Portland MP Dr Lynvale Bloomfield has already fallen to Andrea Moore in her long quest for a seat in Gordon House, while Hugh Buchanan, the first-time MP in the seat in which his father, the late Donald Buchanan, served for four terms, was given a lifeline by the delegates in South West St Elizabeth.
Buchanan defeated Ewan Stephenson a week ago.
Over in South East St Ann, MP Lisa Hanna is fighting to survive a determined challenge from councillor for the Bensonton division in the constituency, Lydia Richards. That contest was expected to take place today but was called off after one of the camps complained about the voters' list which reportedly has 100 of the almost 1,000 delegates not known to the camp.
Then there is Damion Crawford, who appears to have called a contest on himself. Long-time Senator Norman Grant and political aspirant Peter Blake could challenge the dreadlocked MP.
A contest is also likely in Northern Trelawny, where another first-term MP, Patrick Atkinson, is facing the wrath of some Comrades.