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'Pryce, Crawford have a bright future in politics' - PNP chairman opposed the removal of young MPs

Published:Tuesday | September 27, 2016 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Damion Crawford

For the first time since the People's National Party's (PNP) contentious 2016 candidate selection and general election loss, the party's chairman, Robert Pickersgill, has disclosed that he was opposed to the removal of first-time Members of Parliament Damion Crawford and Raymond Pryce.

Pickersgill, in an interview with The Gleaner last week, said in private meetings with individuals closely connected to the two, including councillors, that he was convinced they would have been successful had they contested the election.

"One of my roles as chairman is to smooth things and bring calm where there are disruptions. I went to (Pryce's) constituency and spoke to his councillors. You know what all of them said? That when it came to his councillors, he has performed. And he could boast about his achievement," according to Pickersgill.

Pryce was not at fault for performance

Gleaner sources say Pickersgill wants Pryce to replace him in St Catherine North West, which he has won since 1989. However, constituents are said to be opposing the move.

His support for Pryce was obvious, as he said his investigations revealed that he could not be faulted on performance.

However, he said he was told that Pryce was absent from a number of meetings and constituents did not see him as much as they should, which he (Pryce) said happened because he became deputy general secretary.

"But I was pleasantly not surprised that they all agreed that he could not be faulted with performance. That is Raymond," he told The Gleaner.

Constituents became boisterous and split over the Pryce saga, with some calling for his removal, while others wanted him to remain. Several party officials went to the constituency in search of a solution but many agreed that only a new candidate would solve the issue.

A Gleaner team also visited the constituency during the discord and covered miles in several communities. It was found that at least three competing interests within the party were players in the disruption. All three groups were seeking support from the delegate-rich constituency for internal challenges, some of which manifested in the vice-presidential race, the internal presidential challenge to Simpson Miller, while others were seeking delegates for a future challenge.

Residents made it clear to The Gleaner that "they wanted no more outsiders" in the constituency. For them, it was better if one of their own was their representative.

Evon Redman was selected and is now the member of parliament, chosen after an aged former Mayor Daphne Holmes, a Pryce supporter, went to court to bar Redman from being selected.

Pryce would later remove himself from being selected through resignation.

Crawford has 'something to show'

In the case of the dreadlocked Damion Crawford, he ran into a roadblock with constituents in St Andrew East Rural after he disagreed with his constituency executive on how to spend monies from his Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

Crawford said it would be spent on education, as his objective was to have a member of each family receiving tertiary education. Constituency workers opposed the move, making it clear that they were not opposed to the plans for education, but said that should not come at the expense of the election worker and those who could vote.

A selection contest was held and the winner, Peter Blake, was found to be unsuitable by the party's internal investigation arm.

"[Crawford] and his executive differed over the handling of his CDF. He made it abundantly clear he would accentuate education, and at the end of his tenure, he wanted to produce university graduates. And to the best of my knowledge, he did that. When he came and said how much money he was going to spend on education, it cause a little rumbling, but he was clear in his mind how he would achieve that objective. He achieved it," said Party Chairman Robert Pickersgill in defence of the one-time MP, who has been at war with those in the party he blames for his removal.

Vice-president Angela Brown Burke, with whom Crawford has had several public spats on social media, and her husband, outgoing General Secretary Paul Burke, have received the brunt of his vitriol.

"Damion is the best disciple for that message given where he is coming from. And if it's one regret I have, it is that he did not contest the seat. I believe things would have gone differently if he had contested the seat, because he had things to show, but he backed off for reasons best known to him," stated Pickersgill.

"No, man, those two young men, to me they have a bright future in politics. Right now [Crawford] is in business, and doing his doctorate," Pickersgill said.