All politics is local, says veteran Ferguson
Dr Fenton Ferguson is banking on what he described as his “worth and work” to keep him as the people’s choice in St Thomas Eastern come election day, Thursday, September 3.
Boasting a non-partisan approach, the incumbent said his character was enough to override the noise surrounding his stint as minister of health under the Simpson Miller administration of 2012-2016.
Despite coming under fire for the chikungunya virus spread in 2014 and the death of 19 babies from infections in hospitals, Ferguson rallied to secure the second highest voter turnout in the 2016 general election, safeguarding a sixth term as member of parliament for St Thomas Eastern.
The People’s National Party (PNP) candidate said that attempts to politicise the outbreaks failed because “all politics is local”.
Under fire, Ferguson was transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Labour. But having won the 2011 election by fewer than 500 votes, he expanded that margin by more than 1,600 four and a half years later.
“The country was going seven per cent against the PNP, while I went nine per cent in the positive way, and that would be after chik-V and after the 19 babies,” Ferguson told The Gleaner.
“... I was on the ground; I was in touch with my people. I have spent all my working life with the people of St Thomas.”
Backing his involvement, Ferguson added: “I cross political barriers; no one can accuse me of being a political tribalist. My education programme crosses every line. I have been respectful to my constituents.”
Prior to Ferguson’s elevation to power in 1993, the Jamaica Labour Party had reigned there for 45 years, with a short stint by the PNP’s Violet Thompson in 1976.
Nicholas Allen, who is keen on ramping up support for Ferguson, strongly believes that the self-styled ‘Six-Star General’ has done his constituency well over the years.
“He has made a lot of investment in developing the human capital in this part of the parish, and because of him, St Thomas can boast a lot of lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, skilled workers, and all type of professions who contribute to the parish in terms of remittance,” Allen told The Gleaner.
Allen has also praised Ferguson for the development of basic schools, community centres, health centres, and the Princess Margaret Hospital, especially when he became health minister.
“He has never forgotten the common touch. Even the smallest common man can stop him, and he will listen and give their fair say, and that is why people love him,” said Allen.
Having pledged that this will be his final run for office, Ferguson has expressed concern about how curfew and quarantine restrictions have affected campaigning in key areas of his constituency.
Bamboo River, Lower Summit, and Church Corner were quarantined on August 6 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
As Ferguson prepares to face the Jamaica Labour Party’s Dr Michelle Charles at the polls on Thursday, mobilising canvassers and engaging with constituents have evolved with the ebb and flow of the pandemic.
“We have to be talking to supporters, telling them to be careful and come out. I believe that there are some persons that have registered at one of the boxes in Bamboo River who are from outside, and they are now watching to see what will happen because of the lockdown in the area,” said Ferguson.
“What arrangements will be made? You can’t deprive genuine persons who want to vote but can’t because they are from outside. You can’t take away their right.”