SMITH: MY SON IS THE MAN

Outgoing MP says other potential candidates should serve their apprenticeship before entering race

BY HG HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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To outgoing Member of Parliament for St Andrew North Western Derrick Smith, there is no other candidate who is more qualified to replace him than his own flesh and blood — son Duane.

Duane Smith, councillor for the Chancery Hall Division in the constituency that his dad has represented for 29 years, is the only candidate who has so far raised his hand and disclosed, publicly, that he wants to be the next parliamentary representative of the seat, which had 30,216 registered electors at last check.

Other names have been mentioned as possibilities, among them Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith; Minister of Education, Youth and Information Senator Ruel Reid; and close confidant of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Rhodes scholar Dr Nigel Clarke, who is deputy chairman of the National Growth Council and chairman of the board of directors of the National Housing Trust. There has been no confirmation by the Jamaica Observer from any of them.

So Smith is moving to keep it in the family and maintains that his son has now earned his political stripes and is ready for a greater challenge — that of sitting in the Parliament of the land as an elected representative of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

“My legacy in North West St Andrew is in relation to the memories … helping youngsters in particular to achieve their goals, and that is the reason why I am so passionate about my son replacing me — very passionate about that,” Smith said.

“You have evidence of how soon he was exposed to politics,” Smith stated, pointing to a black and white photograph of his offspring sitting on a JLP platform several years ago when his age was in the single-digit column.

“He was born in politics, he grew up in it. He is 36. He was specifically prepared for it, because all along it was obvious that I was going to be out of there one day and based upon when he established his love for it, he was systematically prepared for it and he is serving his apprenticeship. He is a second-term councillor, so he knows about the running of a constituency, he knows the JLP organisation, knows how to deal with community issues and to deal with people,” the elder Smith said.

But people would say he is not quite your clone was the next point pushed to the political elder in respect of his son.

“Which is good,” was Smith's quick response. “He has his own personality. People make the comparison with me, but he is a completely different person in style than me, although his style is popular in politics on both sides.

“Would his style go against him in a by-election? I don't think so. If people continue to make the comparison between Duane and myself, that is where the challenge will be. He would have to satisfy them. It's all about service. We are completely different people, but people adapt to their representative once you get to know him. He is mature for the challenge. He knows the ins and outs, he knows the pitfalls, he knows the low points and the high points in politics so Duane is the man,” Smith insisted.

And of the possible challengers, Smith entered a plea of ignorance while suggesting that those who are interested ought to follow a certain path before they are thrown at the electors.

“I don't know who they are (potential challengers). Nobody has spoken to me about who the challengers are, but I expect that people will want to walk into a ready-made seat without serving their apprenticeship.

“I expect that people saw what happened in the PNP (People's National Party) where this lady was parachuted from East Kingston into South West St Andrew (Angela Brown Burke), and they figure that they can try that in the Jamaica Labour Party. That's a no-no as far as I am concerned. At this point I am satisfied that the process in selecting my successor adheres strictly to the JLP constitution before I will support anybody other than Duane,” the former Cabinet minister said in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

Smith said that he has held no discussion with the man he virtually idolises — Holness — nor has he held talks with the hierarchy of the party, which includes General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, about his likely successor. He has also not spoken to the leadership of his constituency, and would not do so until his son has applied and he is given the all-clear by the party to enter the race.

Word came yesterday that the JLP had received an application from Duane and he had got a “favourable” response from the party's secretariat.

A breakdown of the 30,216 electors show the most in the Hughenden Division with 12,076, followed by 9,627 in the Chancery Hall Division, and 8,513 in the Havendale Division. All three are represented by JLP candidates in the Kingston & St Andrew Municipal Corporation.

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