Intense fight for Clarendon parish council! - JLP intends to slay the giant; PNP confident it will defend majority
The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has targeted the 22-member mid-island municipality of Clarendon it its quest to wrest control of a majority of parish councils from the opposition People's National Party (PNP).
Success in this quest would see the removal of sitting Mayor Scean Barnswell, who is also the chairman of the Association of Local Government Authorities (ALGA). Barnswell, who is seeking a fourth consecutive term, knows he is a marked man.
The ruling party would like nothing more than to cut short the term of Barnswell, who was elected in September for two years, which comes to an end in 2018. He told The Sunday Gleaner that he will put up a strong defence.
"I expect that we will retain the council, because we have done a lot of work in the parish and the various constituencies which make up the council. In my own division of Hayes, I expect to win convincingly," Barnswell said. In the March 2012 local government elections, he got a 1,263 majority in the Hayes division.
During Sunday Gleaner's rural traverse on the eve of Nomination Day, the common thread through Clarendon was the lush greenery of the communities, as shrubbery, trees and agricultural produce smiled with gratitude for the recent consistent heavy rains.
However, bad road conditions in nearly all communities were obvious. Coupled with that, taxi drivers and vendors in the May Pen Market, as well as councillors and candidates alike, expressed concerns over the lack of employment opportunities for young people.
"It is the biggest challenge in the area in general - the lack of employment opportunities. Then there is the problem of crime, because of the movement of people and the association of people with criminal elements. It's really an economic challenge, and it is facing the entire country," Barnswell said.
Since the start of the year, staggering crime figures have been reported in the parish, with 122 homicides, 10 more than the corresponding period last year. Bemoaning the job situation nationwide, Barnswell said an increase in employment would lead to reduction in crime.
DAVID AGAINST GOLIATH
At least one JLP candidate said the success of Transport and Mining Minister Mike Henry's plans for the development and commercialisation of the Vernamfield business model would bring the much-needed employment.
"I am little David against Goliath. But I hope we all remember that David got the better of Goliath," said Nadine Outar-Johnson, first-time candidate for the Milk River division in the council.
Outar-Johnson, who was born in Gimme-Me-Bit in the parish, is seeking to unseat incumbent Carlton Daley who has been the sitting councillor since 1998.
"I was raised in a PNP family. My mother, Norma Lindsay, was the PNP's candidate in Central Clarendon in the general election against Mike Henry. But having seen both sides, I have chosen to support the JLP. It really wasn't a hard sell to represent the JLP," she told Sunday Gleaner.
She said prior to declaring her hand, she had been an activist for the JLP, but she was now convinced that it was time to take the plunge.
Outar-Johnson also sought to declare her legitimacy to the division, taking Sunday Gleaner to Gimme-Me-Bit, to the soursop tree where she said her navel string was planted, even as she displayed her birth certificate.
"I gather it is being said in the PNP that I was not born here, that I am an outsider. So here is the tree where my navel string was planted, and that's the house I grew up in before we moved away," she declared.
"I wish they would concern themselves with the lack of development in the communities. No development, no roads, no water. It's like it's in a time warp and everybody seems OK with it. Well, I am not," said the 45-year-old mother of four and grandmother of three.
With her oldest son and husband constant campaign companions, Outar-Johnson said youth employment, skills training, roads and water are the first items on her agenda.
I WILL WIN
Donnette Donaldson, a teacher at the Kellits High School, is a first-time candidate for the PNP in the Race Course division in the constituency of Clarendon South West.
She is hoping to overturn a deficit of 46 in the last local government elections and take the division from Pauline Reynolds.
"I am a long-time supporter of the PNP and I am not only confident that I can do it, I am going to do (win) it," she declared.
Donaldson has resided in the constituency for the last 15 years and her motivation has always been representation of the people.
"The interest of the people has always been my concern. Jobs and skills training are really important to me. Employment opportunities are a must, because here we are between New Yarmouth and Monymusk sugar factories, and sugar is no longer king. Without job opportunities, the future is bleak," said Donaldson.
Donaldson has been actively involved in community development and has assisted in sports management, with football and cricket teams in the constituency. She has supported and encouraged small business development, including chicken and pig rearing, and has had to seek markets for the business operators.
The JLP is defending 44 majority in Chapleton; 54 in Race Course; while the PNP is defending 15 in Frankfield and 21 in Palmer's Cross. The PNP will field new candidates in Mocho and Chapelton, as both incumbents have opted out for various reasons.
JLP candidates Dei-Rasi Freckleton (May Pen West) and Radcliffe McDonald (Toll Gate) have both bemoaned the poor roads, lack of jobs and training opportunities for people in the area. Both said that the JLP represents the best choice for the parish, as well as development opportunities.
May Pen North
May Pen East
May Pen West