Painful politics - First-term MP says hurt by underhanded tactics
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
SOUTH WEST St Ann Member of Parliament (MP) Keith Walford believes the way politics has been practised in Jamaica is one of the reasons the country has not progressed to a greater extent in the 52 years since gaining political independence.
The first-time MP said he came to this conclusion after just three years in representational politics.
According to Walford, dirty tactics are being employed by political opponents who are desperate to see his back.
"Recently, the contractor general wrote me to say that I must produce documents to show them how I have been fixing some of the roads that I have been fixing. This constituency has been a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) stronghold for umpteen years," he said.
"I am the second MP in the constituency from the People's National Party, and I sometimes get the feeling that whenever you are trying to do good, whenever you are trying to get things done, somehow, there is somebody out there who is trying to stop what you are trying to do."
He said while he has nothing to hide, he is convinced that "there are people who are intent on trying to stop what I have been trying to do".
The Office of the Contractor General has since told The Gleaner that it will not comment on the matter at this time.
"Even if I wanted to fix the road out of my own pocket, it should not matter. The roads are being fixed for the people to benefit. If it was the way that monies were being disbursed for road and they are not seeing them done, then that is an issue.
"This is a part of the politics that is very sad, and when you reflect on the fact that, as a country, we have not advanced further, you will see where people are power hungry. The other party will do what they can to stop the projects. It is sad, and this is what holds back the community from going forward," Walford said.
In addition to attracting the attention of the contractor general, Walford's first real political backlash came when he made it a requirement for persons to be registered in the constituency in order to participate in a sporting competition he had organised.
He was accused of political victimisation, even though he insists that the clause was his way of ensuring that people were enumerated.
"I had to explain that getting them enumerated does not say you are going to vote for me. The fact of the matter is that the system that we have, the Government wants everyone to be registered, and being registered gives you a national ID. It is your choice if on the morning of election you decide to vote or who you want to vote for," declared Walford.
He argued that since South West St Ann has voted for the JLP in every general election except for 1997 and 2011, there is a move afoot by his opponents to use anything they can to discredit him.
According to Walford, in the instances where his frugality has not been brought into question, there appears to be a coordinated attempt to ensure he is not praised for his achievements.
Walford pointed, for example, to a sidewalk that leads from close to the gate of his house, and that of the Aabuthnott Gallimore High School, into the town of Alexandria
"When I started the sidewalks, the comment was that I am fixing up the road before my gate ... . When they see construction going further, they say I am wasting Government's money and I am just narrowing up the road.
"When they see the sidewalk going into the town now ... and they the children are using it and vehicles can traverse the road freely, the comments after that was that it was not I who built the sidewalk, it was Noranda Bauxite," Walford said.
"This is the kind of situation that I have to face, and almost everything they try to take the credit away. I am in a very challenging environment, a place where I have to keep a strong head and do what I know is right and keep doing that, and that is what faces me here," the MP said.
Walford won the seat over the JLP's Ernest Smith in the 2011 general election, beating him by 822 votes.
However, the political realities, particularly the fact that he lives and operates out of Alexandria, the heart of JLP territory, has affected the first-timer.
He said he was at one point contemplating whether he should prepare himself to seek a second term from his constituents.
"At one point I was thinking, 'Can I manage it?' Sometimes you go to your bed and can't even sleep. You have to be thinking, 'How do I approach this now? How do I get this addressed?' I was actually saying to myself, 'I can't do this, this is not me,'" Walford said.
"But I have made up my mind, and it is the Opposition that has caused me to make up my mind. They have been telling me that I am a one-term MP and when you do things like that to somebody like me, you energise me. ... I have been motivated, I am re-energised, and so even if there were any doubts, there are no doubts now. I am definitely going for a second term," the MP said.