Sun | Feb 23, 2020

Charles runs into headwinds of anger on nomination day

Published:Thursday | February 13, 2020 | 12:24 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Former government senator Pearnel Charles Jr, nominated yesterday as the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate in the Clarendon South East by-election, says innovation and inclusiveness will be his standard when he is declared the winner in the March 2 polls.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday that the by-election would be a test of the readiness of the constituency for a general election, which is constitutionally due in 2021 but is likely to take place this year.

Charles’ confidence mattered little, however, to scores of residents in sections of the constituency such as Portland Cottage who lament broken promises made by “power-seeking politicians who then neglect those who voted”.

They said that nothing would change in a scathing assessment of the leadership of just-resigned Member of Parliament Rudyard Spencer, who they said failed to endear himself to them.

“Mr Spencer did little for us that would make us vote for anyone again, including for Mr Charles,” said 34-year-old Mellissa Strong.

“So many things not right in this community. Talk about light and jobs for young people. The girls dem only hope is working in a bar,” one elderly woman told The Gleaner.

She said that many people in Portland Cottage would not even listen to Charles, “no matter how good him come”.

Spencer polled 9,997 votes in the 2016 general election to beat the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Patricia Duncan Sutherland, who tallied 9,039.

Charles will seek to hold Spencer's margin of the Rocky Point division by almost 800 votes, with the Portland Cottage Community Centre among the deficit zones.

Charles was nominated about 1:30 yesterday afternoon at Vere Technical High School, a few hours after People’s National Party candidate-turned-independent Derrick Lambert was finally nominated, having turned up without a witness to green-light the procedure.

A few frantic calls later, he was duly nominated.

Lambert told journalists that being elected MP was his “destiny”.

“You will be writing history,” he said. “The main plank of my campaign will be about land, land, land, and more land,” said Lambert.

FEELING GOOD UNDER FIRE

Charles, meanwhile, said that he was excited about his prospects and that it mattered little that the PNP decided not to field a candidate.

“I feel good under fire. I feel excited. Team JLP has come out today and represented once again. We are trying to show Jamaica that we are about better politics,” he said.

Flanked by Holness and several government officials and party stalwarts, Charles said he was looking forward to any challenge, and that it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would win the seat, vacated recently by the now-retired Spencer.

“This is really an enormous show of respect and support and encouragement.

“I hear there were other candidates that were nominated. Good for them because I respect the democratic process, and so I’m looking forward to the challenge. I am ready for the challenge,” he said.

Charles said that he would lead with innovation and that the people should expect engagement from him as MP, with focus on employment and youth empowerment, coupled with strong community development.

Further, he said that the highlight of his candidacy would rest on his inclusive approach to leadership.

“That is how we are going to carry out our campaign. It’s an inclusive campaign. All must come as it’s not about the JLP, but for all the people, including those supporters of the PNP,” Charles said.

“Every road in South East is going to feel my boot heel. This is one of the largest constituencies in terms of geographical space, and I look forward to walking the streets and lanes to gain the confidence of the people.”

The former MP, Spencer, said that he had complete trust in the young Charles to not only win the by-election, but to conduct himself with decency to keep the constituency in the JLP’s column.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com