All Woman

Foster to take PNP East Central St James constituency

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 07, 2014    

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MONTEGO BAY, St James - TWENTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD attorney, Ashley Ann Foster, is likely to be elected Chairman of the People's National Party (PNP's) East Central St James constituency.

Delegates in the constituency will meet on Sunday at the John Rollins Success Primary School in Rose Hall to elect a new executive.

The Observer West has been reliably informed that, so far, the young and articulate Foster is the only person who has shown an interest in representing the ruling PNP in that constituency, where the 63-year-old Jamaica Labour Party (JLP's) Ed Bartlett has been the sitting member of Parliament since 2002.

"At the moment there is no other contender for the chairmanship of the constituency, and even if anyone seeks to be elected from the floor, it will be difficult for him or her to beat Miss Foster. The constituency is solidly behind her," a long-standing East Central St James PNP delegate told the Observer West yesterday.

The post had become vacant since the departure of Cedric Stewart, the son of a former PNP councillor in the constituency, who narrowly lost to Bartlett in the 2011 General Election.

The then high-profile Bartlett had polled 6,382 votes to Stewart's 6,208, while independent candidate Royston Richards got 24, in the roughly 49 per cent voter turn-out in the constituency.

Foster, a native of St James, who has been working in the constituency for several months, told the Observer West yesterday that she has already met a number of the constituents and they have been very responsive.

"I was born and bred here in St James and have been working in the region, and so I have gotten to know the people and the communities very well," she said.

Expressing confidence in being elected chairman of the constituency on Sunday, Foster said she wants East Central St James to reflect the idealism and vigour of the youth.

"As a woman, I want the constituency to represent family, children and women's issues on matters of jobs, education and violence. As a lawyer, I want a just order where human rights are respected. As a member of the 'west' I want a more active role for local governance in district, community and parish governance. As a Jamaican, I want the best for my country. I want an equitable society where people have opportunities and where everyone who is willing to work hard and honestly can get the support they need to advance themselves," she added.

She argued that as Chairman of the constituency she would develop a job description for the post.

"We must know in precise terms what our responsibilities are if we are to hold ourselves accountable. We too often expect our representatives --parliamentary or constituency -- to be all things to all people. Then, we feel disappointed when we do not get what was impossible to get from them in the first place. We have lacked a job description for our MPs and we need one. The same is true for our constituency management team," Foster emphasised.

Meanwhile, local political observer Chris Hylton has welcomed Foster's interest in representational politics.

"The argument abounds for some time that we need more youthful persons in the political process and to the best of my knowledge Miss Foster is a bright and articulate person, who is full of exuberance," said Hylton.

He argued, however, that with her inexperience it might be difficult for her to galvanise the mass support on the ground that is required to take her in the winner's enclosure.

"My information, however, is that she (Ashley Ann) is well supported within the realm of the PNP hierarchy in the region and by extension in the inner circle of the PNP's nation leadership, which could well be the force behind her interest in representational politics," he argued.

Noting that East Central St James is a marginal seat, the local political observer argued that Opposition Leader Andrew Holness' decision to strip Bartlett of his shadow tourism portfolio could significantly affect his electability in the constituency in the next General Election.

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