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Ffolkes-Abrahams vs Malahoo Forte should be a classic

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2016 | 12:00 AMAdrian Frater
Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams
Marlene Malahoo Forte

When voters in the county of Cornwall go to the polls for the 2016 general election on Thursday, six women with solid academic credentials four from the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and two from the ruling People's National Party (PNP), will be among candidates vying for the region's 16 parliamentary seats.

While none of the six women are as experienced as the likes of a Derrick Kellier, who will be seeking a sixth consecutive term as member of parliament in Southern St James, they basically have one good thing in common, they are all intellectually equipped.

On the PNP's side, both candidates, the 27-year-old first-timer Ashley-Ann Foster, who will be contesting Central St James against the JLP's Heroy Clarke, and the more seasoned Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, who is being challenged by Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, are lawyers.

On the JLP's side, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, the incumbent MP for South Trelawny, and Malahoo Forte, who many expect to give Ffolkes-Abrahams a stern test, are also lawyers. Dr Saphire Longmore, who will be going up against the PNP's Evon Redman in North East St Elizabeth, is a psychiatrist, while Andrea Walters, who will be battling the PNP incumbent, Luther Buchanan, in Eastern Westmoreland, is an insurance consultant.

"I have focused on young people throughout the last four years, with education being one of the priorities," said Ffolkes- Abrahams, in defending her stewardship in West Central St James. "I have brought the Caribbean Maritime Institute to the Freeport area, and through my Constituency Development Fund, I have placed over 50 young persons in that programme."

However, Malahoo Forte, who made an unsuccessful entry into representational politics back in 2011 when she failed in her bid to unseat the late Roger Clarke in Central Westmoreland, sees weaknesses in the constituency, which she hopes to exploit.

"There are infrastructure issue in some of the communities, there is youth unemployment ... you only have to go on the streets to see the levels of desperation," said Malahoo Forte. "It is a constituency with a lot of good-hearted people who care, so I am looking forward to work for them and that, through me, their voices will be heard loudly and clearly."

With back-to-back wins in Southern Trelawny in 2007 and 2011, Dalrymple-Philibert hopes to beat back the challenge from her former councillor, Lloyd Gillings, who has switched allegiance to the PNP. If re-elected, she plans to focus on the provision of water for her constituents.

"It pains my heart when I see little children, who are barely one-foot high, walking with a jug of water. Water is life, water is a necessity, and if I do nothing else, that is where I want to focus a lot of my energy," said Dalrymple-Philibert. "We have done roads, housing and welfare in the constituency; but in a real, meaningful way, water has to be addressed."

Campaign trail

Ashley-Ann Foster, who has been like an, 'Energizer bunny', on the campaign trail, is adamant that like Lloyd B. Smith did in 2011, she will defeat the JLP Heroy Clarke, who is seeking to make amends for his 2011 defeat to Smith.

"Education will be my first pillar, especially the training of our youth, with particular emphasis on our young men," said Foster. "We will be reopening the Centre of Excellence, on Sun Valley Road, which was closed a couple of years ago."

Despite their credentials, many expect that Longmore, who was only recently selected to contest the North East St Elizabeth seat, and Walters, who is contesting what many say is a safe PNP seat, will struggle. However, based on the uncertain nature of politics, it might be unwise to count them out prematurely.