BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior reporter email@example.com
A private session that was to be used to issue an ultimatum to urge People's National Party Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew Damion Crawford to shape up or ship out yesterday descended into a near brawl after it became clear that such a meeting was not to be held.
Yesterday, dozens of party workers and delegates showed up at the dingy community centre in Gordon Town expecting that there would be an opportunity to air their grouses and also decide the make up of the constituency executive which the Jamaica Observer was told has been out of place for the past four-and-a-half years. That, however, was not to be. Instead comrades were told that what would take place was a "rally" and not a private session, angering several comrades gathered for the meeting.
"We came expecting a conference [but] we found that Mr Crawford wanted to speak to the workers. This meeting was to put a constituency chair in place and set up the executive committee; this is unacceptable," Artnell McDonald, councillor for the Kintyre Division told the Observer yesterday.
One delegate, who asked that his named not be used, said persons came expecting to participate in the private session of the constituency conference to select and forward their slate of delegates ahead of the Annual Conference of the PNP, scheduled for this week, only to be told otherwise.
"Mi caan believe seh Damion deal wid wi dah way deh, di man nat even come outta di vehicle and look how long him ovah deh, and from him win him don't even come back come tell wi thanks," a male constituency worker was overheard saying while the embattled was sitting in his SUV before the start of meeting.
"A true him nuh know how people waan lick him in a him head wid di chair an drop him locks a grung (ground); him must look out fi who look out fi him," one irate woman said in reference to the dreadlocks sporting MP.
"A pure wud mi a go in deh go cuss," said a man as he pushed his way inside the run-down building. The meeting was closed to the media, but angry voices could be heard loudly from outside while Crawford, sometimes in reasoning tones, tried to calm his upset workers.
"It caan work so, call big meeting an don't have no agenda... him siddung in the vehicle about three hour an now talking about rally," yet another male worker exclaimed as he walked away in disgust.
The MP's unfortunate "everybody wants to be King" statement made in answer to persons who questioned the direction of the meeting yesterday further angered the crowd, resulting in a mass walkout at one instance with persons almost chorusing "him nuh have no manners, him don't know how to talk to people, bright and feisty".
That sentiment seemed to be the grouse of most persons who said while the MP had worthwhile programmes his alleged authoritarian leadership style and non-consultative approach could be his ultimate downfall.
According to one female constituency worker, Crawford won the seat without money, claiming that the people who "put him up" can take him back down.
She added that the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party will take back the seat in the next general election if Crawford stays in the seat. The party hierarchy, would be wise to intervene on his behalf or be prepared to lose the seat, she said
As the showdown escalated Crawford remained inside the building, making his case to those who stayed long enough to listen. Seemingly pushed, the beleaguered MP in an almost rebuking tone began to list his projects, including provision of jobs for a numbers of persons since winning the seat in December last year, before concluding that a number of persons who had got help were acting like they had not. He also took constituents to task for taking it to the media that he had described them as beggars.
"Who in here evah hear mi call anybody beggar?" the MP demanded.
"A true Damion," one lone female supporter shouted back in response. "Them a act like u a god [and] want you to 'spin' East Rural in one year."
Speaking with the Observer following the meeting, Crawford said there was not one "iota of evidence" for the claims made by the constituents
"I called a meeting to talk to the workers so I could have an understanding of what the masses are saying," he said. Crawford also insisted that it was in fact a private meeting.
"Some persons came with that in mind (selection of an executive) but the constituency is unrecognised; it does not have enough groups and we are going to have another private meeting and put the groups together," he insisted. "We have sought permission to have it after the annual conference which we have done," he said.
An elderly comrade, in trying to console the youthful MP, said he had to find a middle ground because he is the leader and it cannot work the way constituents want it to.
East Rural St Andrew consists of areas such as Mavis Bank, Bedward Gardens, Harbour View, Dallas, Kintyre, and Gordon Town.