Pryce fires up St Elizabeth NE battle
Delegates show support as former MP joins race for PNP candidacy
A BATTLE royal is looming in St Elizabeth North Eastern as former Member of Parliament (MP) Raymond Pryce has emerged as one of the People’s National Party’s (PNP) preferred candidates to represent the constituency in the next general election,...
A BATTLE royal is looming in St Elizabeth North Eastern as former Member of Parliament (MP) Raymond Pryce has emerged as one of the People’s National Party’s (PNP) preferred candidates to represent the constituency in the next general election, which is constitutionally due in 2025.
Constituents supporting the former MP said an injustice was done by way of a false narrative that Pryce was not considering a bid. This, they said, caused a large number of his supporters to show a lack of interest in the polling when it was conducted.
Pryce, who did not apply for the seat and, therefore, did not campaign in the constituency leading up to the referendum, was still canvassed in an external survey alongside two other contenders: Zuleika Jess, who made the shift to the constituency after her failed bid in Clarendon Central against Mike Henry, and Kern Spencer, who represented the constituency before Pryce, but suffered a fall from grace in a light bulb scandal but was exonerated by the courts.
Informed sources with knowledge of the external polling conducted by Don Anderson told The Gleaner that Spencer polled 34 per cent, Jess 24 and Pryce 22, in a vote against sitting MP, the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Delroy Slowley.
Sandra Grant, a former delegate who pledged her loyalty to Pryce but switched support to Slowley in the 2020 general election because Pryce was removed from the seat in 2015, said she remains loyal to the latter but was told that he was not a contender.
“It was after I heard about the results of the poll I realised that hundreds of Mr Pryce’s supporters and I were not told the truth about his intentions. We all want Mr Pryce, but we thought he wasn’t interested in representing us. We are benefiting from a lot of development he brought to the constituency in his four years,” Grant said.
Sitting delegate Delta Williams said Pryce was one of the best MPs to have represented St Elizabeth North Eastern, evidenced by his accomplishments in constituency from 2011 to 2016.
“We want Raymond Pryce to come back to North East St Elizabeth. I am a delegate and I can assure you that a lot of people feel this way, we just want Raymond back to finish the job he started,” she told The Gleaner.
Pryce failed in his bid to unseat Alando Terrelonge in St Catherine East Central, after he was hastily placed there ahead of the 2020 general election. He remains vice-chairman of the constituency, and noted that the dynamics have changed because of the boundary changes the Government has proposed for granting parish status to Portmore. He said the present configuration will severely disadvantage the PNP in future elections in Portmore.
Removal from St Elizabeth due to sponsored, weaponised activities
Continuing, Pryce said that his removal from St Elizabeth was due to sponsored and weaponised activities by some in the party.
“No man or woman could say that the job I was elected to do was not done, the proof of this is easy to be enunciated and enumerate,” Pryce told The Gleaner.
He cited repairs to the roof of the Santa Cruz Fire Station, upgrading the health centre to a modern facility, classroom additions at Aberdeen High, Bogue and Braes River primary schools, the building of modern, flush toilets at Braes River Primary to replace the open pit toilets, provision of running water in communities that were having water problems, road repairs, and many other developments.
He said the party, in the calculus of many, thought he was unsuitable, owing to personal agendas that included his loyalty to then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
“To the extent that there was a falling-out, it resulted also in the fact that since 2006 the PNP has existed in a state of (unremedied) settlement around personnel changes,” Pryce argued, pointing to the period leading up to 2016 where the highest number of sitting MPs, including senior Cabinet members, were challenged in their constituency.
He added that if members of the public were of the view that the challenges were just casual cut and thrust democracy, they were wrong.
“These challenges were sponsored in cash and human resources,” he said.
CHOICE OF CANDIDATES
According to Pryce, a PNP victory in St Elizabeth North Eastern and all the other constituencies will be determined by the choice of candidates and their ability to attract the undecided and voters aged 18 to 29.
“They have come to see the Jamaica Labour Party as the party that is most unified and have come to know the PNP as a party of disunity, always in the middle of an internal battle either for president or vice president and other offices,” Pryce argued.
Pryce said that he has the ability to defeat Slowley because he would get back the PNP voters in the constituency who turned to Slowley because they were disgruntled by the treatment meted out to him.
The PNP first won the St Elizabeth North Eastern seat through Sydney Pagon in 1959, and only experienced losses to the JLP in the 1980 general elections, in 1983 when the PNP did not contest the elections, and when Slowley won in 2020.
Phillipian Smith, a former PNP delegate who supported Slowley in 2020, agrees that only Pryce can return the seat to the PNP.
“If Pryce is not running, all of us who supported Slowley the last time will do so again because only Pryce can beat Mr Slowley,” Smith said.