Outcome of PNP’s internal dispute leads to potential for division within JLP in Westmoreland
Western Bureau: The political impasse that existed in the opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP) Westmoreland Western constituency appears to have shifted over to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) after two former councillors, Ian Myles and...
The political impasse that existed in the opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP) Westmoreland Western constituency appears to have shifted over to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) after two former councillors, Ian Myles and Garfield James, crossed the floor to join the latter party earlier this month.
They are now sitting JLP councillors in the Little London and Sheffield divisions, respectively, having resigned from the PNP to self-declare as independent councillors before crossing the floor.
Their acceptance by the party hierarchy has caused a level of uncertainty among some supporters of the existing caretakers – the prospective candidates for the divisions at the next local government elections.
Altrecia Maitland is the JLP’s woman on the ground in the Sheffield division, and, in Little London, Carlus Cooke is the party’s point man at the moment.
In Sheffield, a 50-year-old female supporter, who asked that her name be withheld, is adamant that she will withhold her vote if James is given the nod over Maitland to contest the local government elections.
“Maitland has been working for years, and I think they should give her a fair chance, win or lose. She has been working hard, even during the nights, for and on behalf of the people in this division,” a concerned JLP supporter told The Gleaner yesterday.
According to her, it would not be a fair process for the JLP to push her aside in favour of James or anyone else.
“It would be really unfair for the party to switch who has been on the ground working to now want to give Mr James the preference.
“I am not going to support Mr James. I don’t know about others, but if they give him the seat, I will not be voting,” the JLP supporter from the Sheffield division insisted.
Maitland, who is now at the helm of her party’s divisional organisation in Sheffield, is raring to face the electors with the hope of becoming the next councillor.
She noted that whatever uncertainties there may be among supporters, the party’s secretariat is managing them.
“I currently hold the position of division chairman, and I wholeheartedly welcome anyone to join the JLP in supporting my candidacy,” Maitland said.
Tirsia Hall, a supporter of the JLP in the Little London division, said the party should not have accepted Myles. She claimed that, while he was a member of the PNP, he would have disrespected the party at different times over the last seven years.
“I don’t trust him and many of us will not be voting for him,” Hall said of Myles.
“I am the candidate, so there is nothing for me to worry about,” Cooke told The Gleaner in response to the idea of Myles being accepted into the party as the JLP councillor.
He said he was not worried about Myles, who is also the deputy mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, because “the Jamaica Labour Party has always welcomed people to join with us”.
“I have been getting queries, asking who is the candidate [but] I just remind them that I am the caretaker, so I am the candidate, and we are working with that right now,” Cooke said in response to queries about the current mood among JLP supporters in the Little London division.
“I am not saying it is a problem for us because it is one person’s name that is out there, and that is Cooke. I don’t see it [Myles’ membership in the party and him being councillor for the division] as a problem until it arises, but it is not a problem now,” said the JLP caretaker for Little London.
When asked how he would accept it if Myles were to replace him as the party’s next candidate for the division in the upcoming local government elections, Cooke said that, if such a scenario were to unfold, he would deal with it at that time.
“I am not going to go into that now, but if it happens, my team and I will take care of it.
“Right now, I am the standard-bearer, so I am not going to bring that [thought] into place right now,” Cooke insisted. “What I am doing is going out on the streets campaigning and preparing for the next election.”
When contacted for response, Myles and James refused to comment on the reported uncertainty among JLP supporters in the constituency.
The genesis of the political fallout in the PNP, The Gleaner understands, stemmed from threats allegedly made by Ian Hayles, the PNP’s standard-bearer for Western Westmoreland, to replace all the sitting PNP councillors if he wins at the next general election.
The internal political feud intensified when James decided that Hayles’ plan could not work and launched a counterattack, seeking to ensure that he was not selected to contest the Westmorland Western seat by offering himself as an aspirant.
His failed effort was supported by Myles and the embattled Bertel Moore, mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, as well as Councillor Lawton McKenzie.
However, at the heart of the political fight was the decision by the PNP to hold a selection contest to choose a candidate.
Hayles won the delegates’ selection after James backed out.