Sat | Nov 25, 2017

SE St Mary's worst campaign! - Residents of usually peaceful communities blame outsiders for violence and intimidation in the lead-up to tomorrow's by-election

Published:Sunday | October 29, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
JLP and PNP supporters in South East St Mary enjoying nomination day in peace on October 9, before 'strangers' invaded their constituency and caused the tension to rise.
One of the many defaced placards in South East St Mary.
Dr Norman Dunn (forefront) with JLP heavyweights Pearnel Charles (left) and Dr Horace Chang on nomination day for the South East St Mary by-election.
Dr Shane Alexis (centre), with PNP president Dr Peter Phillips (second right) and other party officials on nomination day for the October 30 by-election.
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It's is turning into one of the most keenly contested by-elections in Jamaica's recent history and for some residents of South East St Mary, tomorrow cannot come soon enough.

"The tension a rise, in all di years a politics we never see dis. Last night them fire two shot after some youth," a resident of Enfield told our news team last Wednesday.

In Fort Stewart, where over the years people have openly voiced their support of the party of their choice and everyone knows who supports the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or the People's National Party (PNP), it is different this time around.

According to some residents there is something absolutely scary about the electioneering. They further charge that the presence of heavy weights from both parties, who have set up camp all over the constituency, is intimidating.

One resident said the presence and behaviour of outsiders has brought an unwelcome level of scrutiny to the constituency and she fears the election violence, harassment and intimidation could hurt long after the polls are over.

According to the woman, who asked not to be identified, the bantering that usually takes place in the lead up to an election was always done with the knowledge that once the voting was over Labourites and Comrades would go back to being friends and the community returned to normal.

"Me can't wait fi it over," the woman told The Sunday Gleaner last Wednesday as the clock ticked towards the clash between the JLP's Dr Norman Dunn and the PNP's Dr Shane Alexis.

Over in Enfield a resident complained to a male relative that she had been threatened with being burnt out of her house, if she did not stay home on Monday.

The relative took it upon himself to meet with those who allegedly made the treat, and he did not go with a peace offering. Instead he made he made it clear that if anything out of out the ordinary should happen to her, not only was he prepared to effect revenge but was qualified so to do.

In the community known as Ackee Tree, where zinc and painted orange and Dr Shane Alexis placards make it clear this is a PNP zone, the heightened aggression among relatives and friends of long-standing has left everyone is perplexed.

"The youth them used to share one spliff (ganja cigarette), Labourite and PNP and get along, but now that change," said one young man. Others in the group endorsed the sentiment before going on to blame the other side.

A few minutes earlier a police team on patrol gets an earful from JLP supporters who accused the PNP of invading their territory the night before and firing shots at them.

Back at Ackee Tree the failure of the police to nab a man, said to be a JLP supporter who hit a woman on the shoulder with a stone, prompted allegations that the cops were in cahoots with the Labourites.

Not so, a policeman told The Sunday Gleaner. The cops said they know the suspect and have sought to apprehend him but at a time when a 9-millimetre Ruger with a magazine containing 10 rounds was found in the Interboreale Housing Scheme last Thursday night, this does not take priority.

For the resident the gun find was an indication of the marked upswing in the investment in intimidation in South East St Mary and what many fear could lead to a new chapter in political violence in the usually peaceful constituency.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com