CALLING CHRIS! - JLP supporters in St Catherine West Central demand Tufton as their candidate
Dr Christopher Tufton is playing it coy, refusing to say much until he is officially installed as the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) standard-bearer in West Central St Catherine, but senior party insiders say it is a done deal, and for several Labourites in the constituency, he is the one.
"I would be willing to serve if I'm selected, but I leave it to the party to resolve," Tufton told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday as he reacted to news that the man who beat him for the job in a close selection race, Devon Wint, has been pushed aside by the leadership of the party.
"I would not like to comment further," added Tufton, who has had loud and public clashes with the leadership of the Andrew Holness-led party.
But even as Tufton refused to offer more, a source close to the leadership of the party told our news team that an announcement could come as soon as today when the JLP stages its latest mass rally in St Ann.
"You are seeing now a unified Labour Party with Chris back in the fold. Daryl (Vaz) is back, and with Audley (Shaw) and Andrew (Holness) and all of us working as a team, the PNP (People's National Party) will not know what hit them," declared the source, who asked not to be named.
EXPECTING FUNDS TO FLOW
"The PNP was banking on the division in the party because the private sector was reluctant to offer any financing until they saw that we are a united party and ready for government. Now that we are back together, the money will come, and the people will vote out this wicked, incompetent administration," added the senior JLP man.
As allegations of criminal impropriety continued to swirl around Wint, the JLP last Thursday issued a statement indicating that the party's leadership had asked him to step aside as caretaker for the constituency in which he had won the right to replace Dr Kenneth Baugh, who had held the seat for the last three terms.
Wint had defeated Tufton by 15 votes in a selection contest, getting the support of 211 delegates to Tufton's 196.
But last Friday, scores of Labourites turned out in the constituency to pledge their support for Tufton.
The supporters warned that any attempt by the party to put anyone other than the former minister of government who held the St Elizabeth South West seat before he was defeated in the 2011 general election will be met with strong resistance.
Former councillor/caretaker for the Ginger Hill division, Barrington Mighton, who addressed the meeting, declared that Labourites in West Central St Catherine are united behind Tufton, even as some JLP supporters in the constituency told our news team that they are not sold on him.
"I want every single Labourite to know that we have our man, and we are going to put our man in Gordon House to represent us in this constituency," Mighton said to more than 100 cheering JLP supporters.
NOT ACCEPTING ANYONE ELSE
Mighton said he is confident that Tufton will do a good job.
"We are prepared to accept absolutely nothing less. I am saying that if they think they can put anybody else on us, what we see happening in Trelawny, St Elizabeth and Portland will be child's play to what will happen here," warned Mighton in reference to parishes where both major political parties have had disputes about who should represent them in some constituencies.
According to Mighton, based on Tufton's track record, there is a feeling that he will do everything in his power to represent the constituency well.
Wint's chance of entering the parliamentary elections disappeared after allegations surfaced about impropriety in a white Chrysler motor car that he was seen in on numerous occasions. There have also been whispers about the issuing of bad cheques.
The car was reportedly found in Brown's Town, St Ann, where attempts were being made to change its colour.
Wint, who has denied any wrongdoing, is said to be off the island.
- Additional reporting
by Gary Spaulding
Sharon Thomas, JLP supporter from Kitson Town, WC St Catherine: I will say what stood out to me is the response of everybody to Dr Tufton, who I think is the best thing for us right now. Tufton has programmes that will benefit the people.
Courtney Richards, JLP supporter from Kitson Town, WC St Catherine: What I am impressed with is the support Tufton is getting. He is the best man for the job; you can see that he is ready for the job.
Raphael May, JLP supporter from Point Hill in WC St Catherine: What stands out is the fact that the people will not accept anyone except Dr Tufton. For me, I have seen where he has made his contribution when he was minister of agriculture, so I think he is right man for the job now.