Mark Beckford, Staff Reporter
Jamaica Labour Party candidate for St. Ann South East Peter Fakhourie is looking to follow in his sister Shahine Robinson's footsteps in St. Ann North East and secure victory with an underdog tag. - PHOTOS BY Roger Robinson/Freelance Photographer
Shahine Robinson and Peter Fakhourie share more than a border in the Siamese constituencies of North East and South East St. Ann.
The two Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidates also share a relationship spanning more than 50 years - they are siblings.
This brother and sister of Lebanese origin hail from the town of Claremont in the scenic 'Garden Parish'. The fact that they are both running in their home parish was influenced by their upbringing which, they say, was geared towards "service and a strong social conscience".
"Our grandparents and our father helped a lot in the area, so we were brought up to help. We view ourselves more as social workers than as politicians," Robinson told The Gleaner when we visited her brother's constituency office in the Claremont town square last week.
Credit to parents
Their childhood was an enjoyable one, balanced between enough time for mischief and going to church. Parents Peter and Kathleen Fakhourie were an integral part of their children's (three girls and two boys) lives.
"We had a normal, happy and loving childhood," mused Robinson, the eldest of the Fakhourie children.
She added: "Church was mandatory and Sunday school and, because I was the eldest one, I had to make sure that they were at Sunday school and well behaved."
Fakhourie also testified to a loving childhood and says being younger than all his sisters led to some arguments, but love was always present.
"I have three sisters and they are my seniors. There are some joys, as a boy, to have three sisters ahead of you; sometimes it was really hectic, but we have always had good relationships," he said.
The Fakhouries also give credit to their parents for their upbringing and instilling discipline and respect for all.
"We had parents who instilled the best in us. Whatever was the best in us was a reflection of our parents," said Robinson.
As a teenager, young Peter was athletic and popular. While Shahine was in St. Andrew attending Immaculate High School, Peter was the toast of the town, said his big sister.
"Peter was very athletic; he played daCosta Cup, and all the teams that were made up in the area, such as Under-19, he was on it."
It seems that Peter's popularity continued into adulthood as he entered representational politics, before his sister, as a councillor in the 1990 local government elections. Fakhourie describes that experience as a learning curve for him.
"Well, it was a lesson in some ways in the local government elections of 1990. We lost by a wide margin. At the time, it was just after the general election and the stage was set for a PNP (People's National Party) win."
It seems the stage may be set again for a PNP win in the constituency he seeks to represent come August 27. With the exception of the snap election of 1983, the JLP has never had a hold on South East St. Ann.
Simply put, Fakhourie faces a mammoth task of claiming the constituency for his party. However, he can take encouragement from his sister, who was listed as an underdog in the 2001 by-election in North East St. Ann.
Robinson, then largely unknown, ran in what was considered a safe PNP seat. Her victory marked the second time since 1980 that the JLP won the seat, after 10 attempts.
But the fact that Fakhourie will run against former beauty queen Lisa Hanna makes victory pretty difficult.
"I tell him to go out there and walk and talk with the people, and organise, organise, organise."
Assisting each other
Shahine Robinson and Peter Fakhourie, both children of St. Ann, are sharing strategies to help each other in the constituencies they hope to represent after the August 27 polls.
She is very confident in his chances and says Fakhourie's people skills will help his campaign.
Although she gives him pointers, Robinson recalls his 'help' in her quest for the North East St. Ann seat back in 2001.
"Peter is very popular. In the by-election, I can tell you, I was walking one day and I went to a house and they said, 'No bodda come in here, 18 PNP in here', and I said, 'How you a gwaan so, talk to me, man, St. Ann me come from, Claremont me come from'.
"A man said, 'One man me know from Claremont,' and I said, 'Well, I'm from Claremont and I'm a Fakhourie,' and he said, 'You know Peter Fakhourie?' and I said 'Peter is my brother', and he said, 'Why you call the one man name weh we know? Bwoy, everybody in yah so a vote fi you'," a smiling Robinson recalled.
The Fakhouries still assist each other in their respective constituencies.
"You must be aware that we share a border and it is a very strong area for her, which spills over to me and, on a daily basis, we consult each other and she always gives good advice on how to proceed because she has experience as a Member of Parliament," Fakhourie said.
Amid the brewing political storm in the island, with several violent incidents occurring across the island, the Fakhouries are calling for peace from the electorate.
"We as a family don't know anything about political animosity; we grew up in front of Dr. Ivan Lloyd, the founding father of the PNP ... and Seymour Mullings, the past MP for South East St. Ann. His mother was my godmother, so we don't know about this acrimonious way of campaigning," Robinson said.
"For me, when a PNP baby is hungry, it cries no different from a JLP baby, and we have to live together. We as politicians, we must raise the bar and by example show the people don't fight over me and my opponent because I am not going to fight my opponent."