Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Keep Out, Damion - Crawford belongs in comedy says former MP

Published:Thursday | November 19, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
Dr Patrick Harris
John-Paul White
Damion Crawford
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Retired Northern Trelawny Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Patrick Harris says there is no place in the constituency for Damion Crawford and has suggested that the People's National Party (PNP) remove John-Paul White as the standard-bearer, replacing him instead with hometown boy, the Reverend Devere Nugent.

"A person like a Damion Crawford is disrespectful of the political process, disrespect[ful] to Comrades in general, and, at worst, he is either stupid or fool-fool, and he should be put in the 'Ity and Fancy Cat Show', where you don't have anybody asking about democracy and such things to be in that," Harris said.

Nugent told The Gleaner yesterday that he was not prepared to say much on the matter at this time and pleaded for understanding of "the position in which I find myself".

"I am a servant of God. I am a servant of the people of God, and anything that is in the hand of God, I let God deal with it," Nugent said.

But Collin Campbell, the constituency secretary, said Nugent is a political neophyte and it would be unwise to insert him as candidate so close to an election.

"Crawford is the compromised candidate. The [Patrick] Atkinson side and the White side, we are agreed that the compromise would be Crawford," Campbell said.

He said the agreement was struck on Sunday at a high-level meeting which included Dr Peter Phillips; Lisa Hanna, the regional chair; and persons representing the Atkinson and White factions.

White, the party's choice for the seat, has said he has no intentions or reason to give up the seat.

Meanwhile, the former MP's utterance could be yet another major blow to Crawford's ambitions of remaining in Gordon House. In September, PNP delegates in East Rural St Andrew, a constituency he now represents, booted him as their standard-bearer for the next general election.

The East Rural St Andrew delegates argued that Crawford was autocratic in his leadership style, and some said he was being punished for his declaration that he would not support handout politics.

On Monday, the executive of the PNP reportedly resisted a suggestion from Lisa Hanna - the PNP's chair for Region One, which covers St Ann and Trelawny - for Crawford to be considered as candidate instead of White.

The suggestion was reportedly shot down by some members of the Executive, who said Crawford has not demonstrated enough respect for the party's structures and constitution.

Yesterday, Harris, who has been silent since leaving representational politics, said having Crawford in North Trelawny would be a bad move.

"Damion Crawford, in my opinion, would be a very unfortunate event because where a seed drops, that is where it should flourish. I believe East Rural St Andrew is the place that he should be. The people who are just looking a seat have no interest in the communities in which they work. The people who are just looking a seat should never be accommodated in North Trelawny," Harris said.

"I believe what he did in East Rural [St Andrew] is disrespectful of the people. You cannot make autocratic decisions in the PNP and expect them to be popular. It does not work like that. You have to work as a team," Harris said.

Repeated attempts to contact Crawford by telephone proved unsuccessful up to press time yesterday.

This is Crawford's second foray into North Trelawny, having gone there in 2011 seeking to be the replacement for Harris, who was not seeking re-election.

The PNP selected attorney-at-law Patrick Atkinson as Harris' replacement, but after a term, he has decided not to seek re-election ,primarily as a result of powerful forces in the constituency opposing his stay.

Harris, who served as MP from 2002 to 2011, said that the next MP in Northern Trelawny should be one who has a vested interest in the constituency, and said he frowns on the idea of a candidate being parachuted there.

The PNP has announced White as the potential candidate for the seat, a decision which has not gone down well with many constituents who have openly protested the decision.

Paul Burke, the PNP's general secretary, said yesterday that no decision has been taken to replace White as the caretaker.

"There has been no decision or directive from any structure of the party or the party president to replace John-Paul White," Burke said.

Party President Portia Simpson Miller on Tuesday urged North Trelawny to put aside the divisiveness.

"My encouragement would be that it is time that they cut the nonsense and begin to move ahead. Our responsibility is to live together in peace and love. We are not all going to be loving the same person, we are all not going to be wanting to support the same person, but what we should do is do what is right in the interest of the Jamaican people," a strident Simpson Miller charged.

Dr Harris told The Gleaner that he agrees with Simpson Miller. He said, however, said that North Trelawny needs someone who understands the issues there and is prepared to be at one with the constituency.

"We need to have a person with a track record of decency, honesty and fair play. I don't believe that this is too much to ask for. I believe that when a person enters a constituency, they must have a plan for the development of the constituency. You cannot spend 20 years to recognise what the people want and then expect to implement it in your lifetime," he said.

"All of the persons we are talking about are good Comrades, but to represent the constituency, I would like to see a person with a vested interest in the constituency, a person who can understand the developmental options we have at our disposal - both of infrastructure and our people," White said.

Confident that the PNP will not lose the seat, Harris said he hopes the party respects the views of the constituents and install a local candidate.

"All they want is a candidate they can coalesce around. Once that happens, everybody is going to line up in a straight line," the former MP said.

He argued that the persons being suggested to carry the PNP flag in North Trelawny are "very polarising" and "that is not going to be solved by taking the same route that you are taking now".

"I would believe that a local candidate with the necessary credentials would be the most appropriate person. At the point where we are now, what you are going to be looking for is a compromise candidate," Harris said, while proposing Reverend Nugent.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com