Tue | Dec 5, 2023

JLP leader touts Samuda as ‘natural politician’

Holness says Shahine Robinson wanted senator to succeed her in St Ann NE

Published:Tuesday | November 14, 2023 | 12:11 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter

Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader Andrew Holness told Labourites in St Ann North Eastern on Sunday that Matthew Samuda’s candidacy was one endorsed by the late Shahine Robinson amid their objection to a second term for Marsha Smith.

Samuda, the minister with responsibility for water, environment, climate change, and the blue & green economies, was officially introduced as the party’s candidate to contest the next general election.

It follows at least two staged protests against any continuation of Smith as the party’s standard-bearer three years into the attorney-at-law’s first term as member of parliament.

On Sunday, Holness suggested that Samuda would have ultimately landed in the seat, long considered safe for the ruling party.

“I have known Matthew for many years. I consider him my younger brother. Matthew is a natural politician,” said Holness.

“When I was with Shahine in Switzerland. Shahine knew she was ill at the time and we both suggested that Matthew would have been a good replacement. I won’t go into the details, but he was not yet ready or available at the time. But my mother always said, ‘Nothing before its time’,” he added.

Robinson, who held the seat for the JLP for an unbroken 19 years after defeating the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Carol Jackson by 473 votes in a by-election in 2001, died in 2020.

Holness asserted confidence in Samuda, a legislator in the Upper House, calling him “well organised” and eager to things done in the constituency, which boasts the resort town of Ocho Rios.

“He is resourceful. It’s one thing to say, ‘I will do’ or ‘I will try’. It’s a whole other ball game to get it done. So, the organised person, the person with the ambition, the vision and the mission must also be resourceful. They must be able to mobilise to get things done and that is Matthew Samuda,” Holness said.

But, above all, the prime minister said that Samuda is empathetic and capable of understanding the hardships faced by constituents, their needs, and their aspirations.

“I am confident that Matthew Samuda will be a very good representative for all the people of North East St Ann,” he said to thunderous applause.

Must re-engage voters

Buttressed by Holness’ endorsement, Samuda told supporters that the constituency will deliver thousands of votes for the JLP at the next parliamentary polls.

But he acknowledged that work is needed to bring disgruntled Labourites back into the fold, pledging rigorous canvassing.

“We know that North East St Ann needs some work. We’re not shy about that. We will have to go house-to-house [and] re-engage our voters. We cannot be shy about meeting with our people. We are going to deliver, for our prime minister, 12,000 votes,” he charged.

A year ago, The Gleaner reported that the opposition PNP had set its sights on Robinson’s former stamping ground, amid mounting resentment towards Smith’s representation in the high-profile constituency.

Dr Ryan Simpson, the former JLP St Ann South Eastern candidate who was pulled by the governing party just days before the general election in 2020 for breaching COVID-19 protocols, is expected to contest the seat for the PNP.

A PNP candidate has not represented that constituency since Danny Melville defeated the JLP’s Michael Belnavis, polling 9,150 votes to his 7,062 in the December 1997 general election.