Witter: I’ve done enough to secure re-election
Franklin Witter is certain the electorate in St Elizabeth South Eastern will return him to the House as their representative on the night of September 3. In fact, the Jamaica Labour Party’s man believes he has done enough work to extend his 205-vote margin which saw him returning to Gordon House at the expense of the People’s National Party’s Richard Parchment in 2016.
“Based on my performance to date in delivering on the commitments made in the last campaign – examples being on improvements to roads and water – I feel strong, I feel ready, and we are buoyed by the direction we are taking this constituency,” he told The Gleaner.
The experienced politician is expected to face off with political neophyte Dr Dwaine Spencer, whose brother Kern Spencer once held the St Elizabeth North Eastern seat for the PNP before his fall from grace.
“One thing about me is that I never underestimate my opponents and I will treat this the same way. I will go to work and hope that if the people are satisfied with what I have done so far, they will again give me the nod. My work will speak the loudest,” Witter said.
Historically, St Elizabeth South Eastern has been a happy hunting ground for the PNP.
The PNP, through Burnett Coke, Derrick Rochester and Vivian Blake, held the seat from 1962 to 1980, when the JLP’s Cecil July began a nine-year stint for the JLP as he handed over to Jeremy Palmer in 1983.
Rochester reclaimed the seat for the PNP in the 1989 general election and remained the MP until he retired in 2002 and handed over the reins to fellow Comrade Lenworth Blake.
Witter can boast of having ended the PNP’s dominance in the constituency when he was first elected in 2007. He then tasted defeat in the 2011 iteration, losing to Parchment, but was again given the nod in 2016 by the slimmest of margins.
The South East St Elizabeth constituency is now a marginal seat and Witter is having designs on extending his majority.
“The many infrastructure projects under way in the constituency will be the fillip needed to not only secure victory, but also to increase the margin and to move South East St Elizabeth from marginal to a firm JLP seat,” he told The Gleaner confidently.
Among those projects are six wells dug under the Essex Valley Irrigation Project as well as the Essex Valley Domestic Water Project, examples, he said, of “promise made, promise kept”.
Areas already being supplied by the Essex Valley Domestic Water Project include Junction, Bull Savannah, Nain, Myersville, Cheapside and Brinkley, while Comma Pen is to be shortly connected to the service.
The project is slated to cost approximately $4 billion when completed.
He said the temporary closure of the JISCO Alpart bauxite plant at Nain has been a sore point in the constituency as hundreds of people were left without jobs.
“Notwithstanding the importance of bauxite, farming is the main economic driver in the constituency. It employs 80 per cent of the people in the constituency,” said Witter.