JLP tails up in St Ann - Party promises to reverse PNP control of council
It was the day after People's National Party (PNP) President Portia Simpson Miller threatened to come back to St Ann after she was heckled by supporters in the Claremont division, which is represented by Lambert Weir in the parish council.
The party leader said she would not tolerate disrespect from anyone, after a 'Comrade' threatened to mash up the meeting which was being held to support the push to retain the St Ann Parish Council. The heckling was persistent and the PNP leader resorted to comments unbecoming of a party leader and former prime minister, for which she has since expressed regrets.
Claremont is a division in the St Ann South East constituency represented by Member of Parliament (MP) Lisa Hanna. The MP and at least three of her councilors are at war, and the political atmosphere in the constituency is best described as toxic, noxious and politically malicious.
Now the jangling political discord in the constituency sent the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) on a motorcade through St Ann South East, the day after Portia declared war.
When The Sunday Gleaner team visited shortly after, Lloyd Garrick, councillor in the Moneague division, was "too busy" to speak. Garrick, Lydia Richards (Bensonton) and Weir are at swords with Hanna.
At the time, none of the controversial $600 million bush-clearing programme was observed in Hanna's constituency, and that was just over a week to go before tomorrow's local government elections. However, bushing was obvious in some areas of the St Ann North East constituency represented by Shahine Robinson. With tails up, green flags were tagged on trees, light poles and buildings.
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie smells political blood.
"We are aware of the political environment in the constituency and as good politicians, we aim to capitalise on that. And it's no secret, this is a council we have targeted. And the way things are going, we feel very confident that we can overhaul some of the 11 divisions held by the PNP to get a majority. I think we can do it," said McKenzie during a brief stop at Golden Grove in the parish.
The only sign of PNP life in that part of the constituency was a vehicle which had photographs of PNP Councillor Ian Bell. McKenzie said it was running a campaign in the trenches. His Cabinet colleague Robinson said she was there to lend support to the councillors and was part of the thrust to take back control of the council.
The local government minister said the party was buoyed by the voter turnout in several divisions in the last general election.
Member of Parliament in St Ann North West, Dr Dayton Campbell, said the JLP will have to fight hard to regain the council.
"Let us not be fooled by this argument about winning a division in general election. Persons have lost divisions in the general elections and have won them in the local elections. The opposite of that argument is also true. You can lose a division in the general election and win in the local," he argued.
Campbell said none of his three councillors knew "anything about the deforestation monies being spent in the parish".
"The councillors/caretakers were the ones who selected the people, and took them to the sites themselves. My councillors are the elected representatives and they knew nothing of the bushing. I am told that $43 million work is under way in the parish, but only the JLP supporters and candidates know about what is to be done and how much money is being spent," Campbell said.
"I am the elected representative and I certainly did not know a thing about what is going on. But yes, I am aware that this council is a target, but I don't see how they will win it. I expect us to get back 11 divisions, may not be the same divisions we have now but I don't expect us to lose the council."
According to the MP, any division won or lost by under 200 votes is up for grabs. The PNP's 112 majority in Bamboo and 102 in Sturge Town could be up for grabs, as well as the JLP's 42 majority in Alexandria. The other 13 divisions all have larger majorities.
Bad roads in several areas, building breaches, including some with overhang in the roads, congestion, and undisciplined taxi operators are among the concerns raised by residents. However, improvement work was observed along a few metres of road entering Golden Grove.
The JLP's candidate for the Moneague division, Delroy Kelly, faces incumbent Lloyd Garrick and independent candidate Vernon Williams. In the 2012 local government elections, Garrick received 73.8 per cent of the votes, which translated into 1,665 votes to the JLP's 551. Still, Kelly feels he can do it.
"I know we can. Yes, it is a big number to pull back, but we can. And we are encouraged by results of the last general election and hope to pull it off," Kelly shared.
ST ANN DIVISIONS
St Ann's Bay