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Central St James going green - Lloyd B says seat in danger of falling to JLP

Published:Tuesday | September 15, 2015 | 9:56 AMDaraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Smith ... defeated the Jamaica Labour Party's Heroy Clarke 5,683 votes to 5,585 in 2011 but now says he is being undermined by people in the PNP who want to contest the seat.

Having won Central St James by only 98 votes, the People's National Party's (PNP) Lloyd B. Smith has sounded an ominous warning that the seat is in real danger of falling to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the next general elections.

"It is going to be very difficult," Smith told The Gleaner yesterday when asked whether the PNP can retain the seat.

"It was cut in favour of the JLP. When I ran, one of the reasons why we won was that I was well known as a Montegonian - Born a Bay. There was also a tremendous sense of unity and so we were able to win the seat," added Smith, who was on Sunday shown the exit by the majority of delegates in the constituency who said they don't want him to continue.

Central St James was created ahead of the 2011 general elections when the Parliament voted to increase the number of constituencies from 60 to 63.  It comprises three divisions - Montego Bay South, Salt Spring and Montego Bay South East.

Smith defeated the Jamaica Labour Party's Heroy Clarke 5,683 votes to 5,585, but now says he is being undermined by people in the PNP who want to contest the seat.

Alleging that Sunday's exercise was corrupt, Smith said the constituency is now divided and "unless there is some level of unity, the PNP is likely to lose the seat as a result, no matter which person is put there".

Clarke, however, told The Gleaner yesterday that the writing is on the wall for Smith.

"We knew what took place in 2011 and we started as early as 2012 and we started on a steady part of structuring the constituency," said Clarke, who claims he is leading Smith in every poll conducted in the constituency.

"It is no news that he was on the back foot," Clarke stressed, while adding that he is targeting between 7,500 and 8,000 votes in the next elections.

There are currently 27,526 persons on the voters' list in Central St James. Only 45 per cent of the 24,991 people on the list voted in the last election.

"It should have fallen to the JLP but there was somewhat of a shift as we saw people who were expected to come home (win) losing as well. So even though I lost, which was great pain for me, I know more work should have been done," Clarke said, adding that he has been leading the charge to put more people on the voters' list and to convince persons who normally shy away from voting to exercise their franchise.

Smith, meanwhile, said that the PNP should consider a poll in the constituency and use that as a gauge to decide who should be the representative in the next election.

"The fact that one may be able to win a delegates' ratification does not necessarily mean that one may be able to win the constituency. The constituency comprises Labourites, Comrades and people who do not belong to any part at all and I know that with my background in Montego Bay, I attract a wider cross-section of the society than just party supporters," Smith said.

"I would be prepared to put my political future on the block if a poll was done... But that is for the party to decide. I am not putting the gun to the head of the party. I will just abide by it and if I don't abide by it I will quietly leave the scene and get on with the rest of my life."