Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Campbell: Weekend vote for Western Westmoreland won’t hurt PNP unity

Published:Friday | June 2, 2023 | 12:41 AMJovan Johnson/Senior Staff Reporter
Ian Hayles, People’s National Party vice-president and candidate to represent the party in Western Westmoreland.
Ian Hayles, People’s National Party vice-president and candidate to represent the party in Western Westmoreland.

Ian Hayles’ will be the only name on the ballot for Sunday’s delegates’ selection for People’s National Party’s (PNP) caretaker for Westmoreland Western in a process that continues to generate strong opposition from councillors in the constituency to the candidacy of the party vice-president.

As the political representatives closest to constituents, a lack of support from the party’s councillor corps could be detrimental to rebuilding a political machinery in the parish considered a PNP bastion until it lost all three seats in the parish to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

PNP General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell says with Councillor Garfield James pulling out of the contest, Hayles just needs to get the majority of votes to be cast at the Little London High School.

Approximately 1,500 delegates are expected to participate.

James, who represents the Sheffield Division in the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation, had applied for the caretaker position but has opposed both Hayles and the selection going to a vote.

In a letter dated May 29, 2023, James reminded the general secretary of his decision not to participate in the selection conference “for a number of reasons that have been expressed”. The three other councillors in the constituency, who are all from the PNP, are also against Hayles.

“I am, therefore, requesting that my name NOT be placed on any ballot,” he said.

Campbell is dismissing concerns that going ahead with the conference could threaten party unity in the constituency.

“I don’t see how sticking to the process that has been approved by the NEC (National Executive Council) would impair the unity within the party. It would seem to me that if we were to deviate from the process that has been approved by the NEC, that is what would cause legitimate concerns,” he told The Gleaner yesterday.

He said that although Hayles would become caretaker if he gets a majority of the ‘yes’ vote, the party will still conduct reviews. The party president has the power to change the decision.

Telephone calls to James have gone unanswered and Hayles has declined to comment on the concerns.

Some PNP supporters staged a protest on May 17, demanding that Hayles be removed from the process. They and the councillors have raised questions about the delegates’ list, Hayles’ track record as a losing MP from another parish, and the polling done to allow his application to progress.

Hayles, a PNP vice-president, lost his Hanover Western seat in the 2020 polls.

In a joint letter, the four councillors – James; Mayor and Councillor for Negril Bertel Moore; Ian Myles, who represents Little London; and Lawton McKenzie, who is the councillor for the Grange Hill division - expressed concern about Hayles’ inclusion and further that a selection exercise would “only result in further disunity in the constituency”.

“It is not about Comrade Garfield James seeking power. It has to do with finding a suitable candidate to represent the decency and integrity that our constituency deserves,” they argued in the missive dated May 10.

The councillors said they had recommended that if James were not the chosen person, they would be “willing to work with someone else, but we are vehemently against having Comrade Ian Hayles as our parliamentary candidate.

“The four councillors who are the flag bearers of the constituency, with a sitting Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament, are now convinced that we are being disrespected and our recommendation is deemed to be irrelevant. Our relevance and currency on the ground are unquestionable ... .We will never trade integrity for expediency or nepotistic shielding,” they added.

Earlier this year, the Integrity Commission recommended Hayles and his wife, Charlotte, to the commissioner of police over allegations of forgery. He was also referred on allegations that he tried to influence a former mayor of Lucea.

Hayles has denied the allegations.

The PNP general secretary has suggested that those issues have not impacted the decision to give favourable consideration to Hayles’ application.

“Should he be charged for something . .then certainly, that would affect his standing. Currently, we assume that persons are innocent until proven otherwise.”