Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Fenton survives - Embattled Ferguson fends off Seiveright

Published:Friday | February 26, 2016 | 2:00 AMGary Spaulding
Ferguson

THE PEOPLE’S National Party’s (PNP) Dr Fenton Rudyard Ferguson has shrugged off the effects of what is unquestionably the most turbulent period of his long political career to repel a spirited challenge from the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Delano Seiveright and retain the St Thomas Eastern seat.

In winning with 8,854 votes to Seiveright’s 7,243, Ferguson demonstrated that he was the consummate political survivor as he continued his dominance over JLP combatants in the constituency he first won in 1993 with the defeat of the experienced Pearnel Charles.

Although he won the seat in an election when the tide was overwhelmingly in his party’s favour and the JLP slumped to its worst defeat – eight to the PNP’s 52 in a 60-seat Parliament – Ferguson proved that his first victory over his more accomplished rival was no fluke.

He never looked back from the initial victory in 1993 as he took control of the one-time JLP stamping ground.

During his reign, Ferguson, a dental surgeon by profession, stamped his dominance in St Thomas East when he defeated Charles’ daughter, Dr Patrece Charles-Freeman, in the 2011 election in the same seat with 8,018 votes to 7,547.

The politician, who was serving as minister of labour and social security when the 2016 general election was called by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, has encountered some challenges that threatened his political future.

PUBLIC PRESSURE

Haunted by one controversy after another when Jamaica was assailed by the chikungunya virus and another affliction which claimed the lives of premature babies, Simpson Miller bowed to immense public pressure and relieved him of the health portfolio.

Ferguson was offered a lifeline in the labour and social security ministry mere months before the polls.

It was only on November 6, 2015 that Simpson Miller advised the governor general, Sir Patrick Allen, of changes to the Cabinet, effective November 9, 2015.

Horace Dalley was summoned to take over the ministerial portfolio and Ferguson shunted to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

In announcing the changes, the prime minister said she had listened to the discussions and expressions of concern, some of which could have distracted attention from the very important focus on economic and social reforms.

But even under pressure, the man who has represented the people of St Thomas Eastern for the past 23 years has demonstrated once again that he knows how to prevail over the odds.

Ferguson has secured the vote of confidence from a sizeable portion of the constituents.