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Donaldson ready to topple Ed Bartlett - Says illness caused absence from Half-Way Tree mass rally

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton

On Sunday night, when the People's National Party (PNP) presented its slate of candidates for the upcoming general election, one face was missing from the line-up. It was that of Noel Donaldson, who was absent because of ill-health.

Donaldson, who is the party's standard-bearer for East Central St James, a seat represented by the Jamaica Labour Party's Edmund Bartlett, told The Gleaner yesterday that his absence should not be interpreted as the PNP having second thoughts about him.

"I am solidly and firmly a member of the People's National Party and the candidate for East Central St James," he told The Gleaner.

Donaldson left the PNP in a huff more than a decade ago after a fallout with members of the party. He then joined the JLP and contested both parliamentary and local government elections on its ticket. He was at one point mayor of Montego Bay, having been elected councillor for the Norwood division of the St James Parish Council in 2002.

In 2007, he faced off against the PNP's Derrick Kellier in South St James and lost.

Donaldson's father, Cecil, was PNP mayor of Montego Bay from 1966 to 1969 and 1971 to 1975.

After more than a decade flashing the JLP's V-sign and ringing the Freedom Bell, Donaldson last year returned to the fold of the PNP and has told The Gleaner, "I feel at home.

"Over the years, I have been very concerned about the path of our country, in the sense that successive governments, both PNP and JLP, would have been borrowing their way to deal with the issues of the country. For the first time, I see a government, with the leadership of Portia Simpson Miller [prime minister and PNP president] and Dr Peter Phillips [finance minister], that is determined to change that approach to governance," Donaldson said of his reason for rejoining the PNP.

"It gives me a great sense of security for the future of our country to know that we are finally on the right path of governance and we have leadership that is prepared to take hard decision, notwithstanding the possible political consequences," he added.

Bartlett polled 6,382 votes in the last general election to the PNP's Cedric Stewart's 6,208, getting home by only 174 votes.

"I intend to take home that seat for the party," said Donaldson. "On the night of February 25, you will see East Central St James in the winning column. We are working hard on the ground and we are very confident of victory."

The PNP's Violet Neilson, who served 13 years and eight months as member of parliament from 1989 to 2002, is the only non-JLP person to represent the constituency, which was first contested in the 1976 general election. Donaldson said there is no doubt that he will end Bartlett's near 14-year reign in the constituency.

While agreeing that the history of the seat favours the JLP, Donaldson said he is focused on the present and "the present tells me that Ed Bartlett is now history".

"It is going to be a done deal the night of the 25th," Donaldson said.