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Stabroek News

NEWSMAKER - DK Duncan: the political chameleon
published: Tuesday | May 16, 2006

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer


D. K. Duncan, campaign manager for Dr. Omar Davies 'Campaign for Prosperity' in the People's National Party presidential race, speaking at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in January. - FILE

OF ALL the politicians who made headlines during the politically-divisive 1970s, D. K. Duncan and Paul Burke are maybe the only survivors who still pack enough punch to excite the masses.

In Duncan's case, that was evident two weeks ago in Eastern Hanover. A rowdy group of diehards showed their disapproval at his being left off the ballot to represent that constituency for the People's National Party (PNP) in the next general elections.

Lloyd Hill, former Mayor of Lucea and current councillor for the Sandy Bay division, Cleveland Wright, former councillor for the Hopewell division and Savanna-La-Mar Mayor, Delford Morgan are the confirmed aspirants to oppose sitting Member of Parliament, the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Barrington Gray.

But for some, the 'best' man for the job is D. K. Duncan, the 65-year-old dentist whose political colours have changed as much as a chameleon in the last 10 years.

"If no D. K., then Eastern Hanover gone fi good!" shouted one elderly man.

DRIVING FORCE

Dr. Duncan was a driving force behind Finance Minister Omar Davies' failed 'Campaign For Prosperity' for PNP President.

During that run, he backed residents' opposition to the building of a cemetery in the district of Burnt Ground, a stance that seems to have won him a lot of support in the constituency.

The PNP's Deputy General Secretary, Maureen Webber, told The Gleaner last week that the party is currently conducting a poll to see if Dr. Duncan will eventually be placed on the ballot for the internal poll which is expected to take place in June.

If he gets on the ballot, it would mark a return to electoral politics for Duncan, who came to prominence in the 1970s as the brash and combative General Secretary of the PNP.

Rural Eastern Hanover is the complete opposite of East Central St. Andrew where Duncan was MP from 1976 to 1983. Back in the 1970s, the fiery Duncan not only made a statement with the socialist rhetoric of Prime Minister Michael Manley, but also with his denim outfits and 'buckers' hats.

He was among a handful of PNP candidates to win a seat in the 1980 general elections, won in convincing fashion by the JLP.

After Prime Minister Edward Seaga called a snap election in 1983, which the PNP did not contest, Duncan gradually dropped out of politics.

But in the 1990s, he made a comeback as a newspaper columnist and much-sought political analyst.

SHOCKERS

In 1997, he shocked many by leaving the PNP to join the fledgling National Democratic Movement which was led by Bruce Golding, the former JLP General Secretary and a political adversary from the 1970s.

Even more shocking was Duncan's speech to the JLP's annual West Kingston dinner in September 2001.

He admitted that the Manley government had made several errors during the 1970s, including the controversial 1974 Suppression of Crime Act which was legislated to stem crime but which many say marked the beginning of human rights violations in Jamaica.

"I was part of it and for that I'm sorry," he said. "I could have left the PNP in 1974 when that thing was introduced but I bought the argument because Michael say it's a short-term thing ... that lasted way down to 1994."

That statement rattled many of Duncan's former comrades who refused to share in his mea culpa.

Political commentator and Sunday Gleaner columnist, Ian Boyne, says he was surprised at Duncan's decision to run once again for political office.

"D.K. has attached himself to so many failed causes I thought he would have packed it up after Omar's humiliating failure," said Boyne. "But I think he has mellowed over the years. He's no longer the socialist firebrand but he has not lost his passion for the people."

Ms. Webber says Dr. Duncan rejoined the PNP last year. He and his daughter, Imani, campaigned for Davies who finished third in the PNP presidential poll behind then Local Government Minister Portia Simpson Miller and National Security Minister Dr. Peter Phillips.

In January, the twice-divorced Duncan was ordered to rest by doctors because of a recurring kidney problem.

However, he was back on the beat within a matter of days. It's the type of resolve that his supporters believe will benefit them if he is elected to represent Eastern Hanover.

D.K. Duncan trivia

He is a cousin of former parliamentarian and JLP General Secretary, Percival Broderick.

Played on the winning Jamaica College Sunlight Cup cricket team of 1959. That team was captained by future JLP Tourism Minister and current Breakfast Club host, Anthony Abrahams.

Charged that there was widespread corruption in the JLP election victory of 1980.

Is the father of Jamaica Money Market Brokers' principals, Keith Duncan and Donna Duncan-Scott.

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