Mon | Oct 19, 2020

‘You feel it?’ - PM flies election kite in push for votes

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2020 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson and Cecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writers
Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses scores of Jamaica Labour Party supporters who turned out for the opening of the Clarendon North Central constituency office in Chapelton. The old constituency office was located in Summerfield. To Holness’ left is prospective candidate Robert Nesta Morgan.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second left) washes his hands shortly after the opening ceremony for the Mocho National Water Commission water-supply system on Tuesday. Looking on are Robert Nesta Morgan (left) the prospective Jamaica Labour Party candidate for Clarendon North Central, and Pearnel Charles (right), the outgoing member of parliament for the seat.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness waves to supporters in Kellits while touring Clarendon Northern on Tuesday, August 4.

With a pair of Clarks Desert boots and stark, teasing language, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has put the country on notice that he could be ready to announce the date for the next general election.

And, no sooner than he told scores of excited Labourites in the battleground Clarendon North Central constituency Tuesday afternoon that he’s “feeling” the election buzz , a new song of festive character started circulating on social media by party operatives urging Holness to ‘give the green light’.

Green is the official colour of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

A change in the mood of the former parish capital of Chapelton was evident even before Holness addressed his party supporters when he dumped his business attire for an earlier event for party-branded wear.

“Everybody has it in their minds that something is going to happen,” he told a small ceremony for the opening of a new constituency office where his young ally, Robert Nesta Morgan, noted for helping to transform the prime minister’s image, hopes to occupy after the next polls.

Holness has been teasing about elections, though twice recently, while on the hustings, he mocked political opponents for focusing on the polls, arguing that the economy had his attention.

He reiterated his push to rebuild the country’s COVID-19-hit coffers, but this time, with an eager crowd, struck a new chord with national implications.

“You feel it?” the prime minister, asked the Labourites, who without hesitation, shouted “Yes!”

“Yes, I feel it, too,” Holness replied, drawing attention to his Clarks boots which, in January, he said meant the party was to be on its marks. He said then that a switch to track shoes would indicate it was election time.

The prime minister left the crowd hanging, however.

“Something is in the air. You will hear more, but until such time,” Holness concluded.

Political analysts have been predicting that elections due by March next year could be as early as this August.

And, the uptick in Holness’ visits across the island to open new projects has only intensified speculation.

Morgan, a former director of communications in the Office of the Prime Minister, is set to go up against Dr Desmond Brennan of the Opposition People’s National Party.

But party insiders, along with political watchers, have admitted that the while the seat has been held by the JLP’s Pearnel Charles Sr for a while, margins have been falling.

The challenges in the rural constituency that borders May Pen, the parish’s main urban centre, were evident, but none seemed to loom larger than water and jobs, based on residents’ cries.

“Some road nuh too bad, you know, but my God, man, look how long we a look water?” said one of the supporters who didn’t want to be identified.

The outgoing MP, who admitted to a rough patch between him and the home-grown Morgan, whom he felt prematurely wanted to take his seat, said now was the right time.

“There was a time when there was a problem between Morgan and myself as to when I was leaving. Pearnel (Jr) has gotten a seat, and this is obviously Morgan’s seat with my full support ... . That was the deal,” he told The Gleaner.

The younger Charles is the member of parliament for Clarendon South Eastern, another seat crucial to the JLP’s electoral success.

Holness thanked the retiring Charles for his 55 years in local politics and encouraged Morgan to respect the wisdom he says comes from age, while committing to learn from mistakes.

“Nesta will not be the same as the Chief (Charles), but Nesta will be able to learn from the Chief,” the prime minister said, noting that already, while Morgan is “not the custodian of public resources, you have gone out of your way to raise funds to do the little you can to improve the lives of the people”.

Morgan got the most of Holness’ day, which included a launch of a water-supply system to bring the commodity to residents there for the first time in 50 years and a visit to the Chapelton Hospital which is being refurbished.

Holness later led a motorcade that made several brief stops in Clarendon Northern communities of Kellits and Brandon Hill, among others. There the JLP’s Dwight Sibblies will do battle with the PNP’s incumbent Horace Dalley.

Holness was due to visit Clarendon North Western to give a boost to Phillip Henriques, who’s hoping to unseat the PNP’s Richard Azan. Holness will visit St Ann North East St Ann today.

After 50 years, Lennon High School and nearby environs can now enjoy running water.

An elated principal for Lennon High, Frederick Lattray, gushed at being “in the wilderness for 50 years without water”. He said that the milestone came at an opportune time as the parish of Clarendon has begun seeing troubling signs of COVID-19, which has seen a surge in cases in Jamaica.

Lattray told The Gleaner that the water-supply system was a solution to many headaches the school administration anticipated with the new academic year a month away.

“Honestly, it could not have come at a better time, as we also wanted to expand into agriculture at the school. Now we can,” he said.

Charles Sr said that he had fought for 12 years for Lennon High School to get access to running water.

‘We have 17 schools with flush toilets and only three schools have water. Thank God that I live to see that the water has reached Mocho and on its way to the other high schools,” he said.

In addressing the throng, the prime minister said that the Government was now “catching up” with the mushrooming of many unplanned communities across Jamaica.

“But at the same time we can’t allow that fault in our system of development to prevent you from having that essential commodity – water,” he said.

Holness said that his four-and-a-half-year-old administration was pressing the National Water Commission to expand the utility’s reach in order for customers to be metered.