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The battle for Portmore - JLP vows to take 'Sunshine City'

Published:Tuesday | February 16, 2016 | 12:17 AMCorey Robinson
The JLP's Alando Terrelonge (centre) and supporters on Nomination Day, last Tuesday.
The PNP's Colin Fagan (centre) and some of his supporters on Nomination Day, last Tuesday.
Jamaica Labour Party Leader Andrew Holness arriving at a mass meeting in Gregory Park, Portmore, St Catherine, on Sunday.
Endorsing 'Mama P', these PNP supporters had fun at its rally in Portmore, St Catherine late last year.

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) on Sunday flexed its muscle in Gregory Park, Portmore, St Catherine, days after three of its representatives vowed to debunk the myth that the 'Sunshine City' is a People's National Party (PNP) town.

The PNP has traditionally done well in the three constituencies in Portmore, but the JLP representatives are adamant that this does not reflect a control by that party.

"Portmore is not a PNP stronghold. Portmore belongs to the people of Portmore. What has happened is that there has been a lack of development in the area, a lack of infrastructure, and the truth is that voter apathy has been high," argued Alando Terrelonge who is the JLP's candidate in East Central St Catherine.

That constituency contains the JLP stronghold of Gregory Park, Portmore Pines and Southborough communities.

According to Terrelonge, the JLP has suffered from poor voter turnout in general elections over the years.

"Some persons just decided that they are not going to turn out and as it relates to East Central St Catherine, the persons have assured us that this time around the People's National Party has proven that it is an incompetent Government. It cannot be trusted. Scandals after scandals," said Terrelonge.

He pointed to several deplorable roads in Portmore and communities where he said electricity was absent.

Forming trust

According to Terrelonge, if he is given the expected nod from the voters, youth development and health care will be high on his agenda and he will be forging a relationship of trust with constituents.

"It's a figment of their imagination," said Keith Blake, the JLP counsellor who is battling the PNP's Colin Fagan for the South East St Catherine seat.

"There are 37,000 persons on the voters' list and I believe just about 47 per cent of those persons came out to vote, and another 53 per cent that do not support the two political parties. So it could not be deemed that Portmore is PNP country.

"What I recognise is that there are enough persons here who support the Jamaica Labour Party, but their votes are either in Kingston or in the country or elsewhere," said Blake.

"So we went out, identified some of them and we have asked them to transfer their votes; and who did not reenumerate, we got them on the list. That will definitely help us going forward," added Blake.

South East St Catherine includes the key Portmore communities of Waterford, Independence City, Westchester, Bridgeport and Edgewater.

The Rev Welton Shettlewood, who marched with only a handful of supporters to Ascot High School to be nominated last Tuesday, also rubbished the 'PNP town' claim.

Shettlewood will face off against the PNP's Fitz Jackson for the South St Catherine seat, which represents residents of Greater Portmore North, Greater Portmore East, Braeton and Hellshire.

"That is simply not true. The people want a change, but what happened over the years is that nobody from the Jamaica Labour Party was able to go in there early enough to spend time to build the organisation and spend time to bring the constituency to victory," said Shettlewood.

He told The Gleaner that his aim is to ensure organisation within the constituency over time.

"As a minister of the gospel, I want to bring a change and I am not a man for this great fanfare. Marching crowds really do not win elections.

What you need is organisation and I am looking very good on the ground," said Shettlewood as he explained the small size of the crowd that followed him to the nomination centre.

How Portmore voted in 2011

South East St Catherine PNP Colin Fagan 8,260 JLP's Keith Blake 6,589

South St Catherine PNP Fitz Jackson 8,856 JLP's Keith Hinds 5,582

East Central St Catherine PNP Arnaldo Brown 5,734 JLP's Camille Buchanan 5,176