Decision time in St Elizabeth South Western

Decision time in St Elizabeth South Western

...while Redman’s supporters protest delay

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South Central Bureau

Saturday, September 05, 2015

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BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth - The People's National Party (PNP) says all is in place for today's internal contest for leadership of the party's St Elizabeth South West constituency at the Black River Primary School.

Sitting member of parliament for the constituency Hugh Buchanan is being challenged for chairmanship of the constituency by former banker and businessman Ewan Stephenson. The winner of the contest will be expected to represent the PNP in the parliamentary election, which is constitutionally due late next year, but which many analysts believe will be held soon.

"Everything set," Hopeton McCatty, chairman of the PNP's Region Five (St Elizabeth and Manchester) selection committee, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

McCatty said that 346 delegates were registered to vote in the contest. Voting will begin at 10:00 am and will end at 2:00 pm, with counting likely to be over and done with an hour later, said McCatty.

Another challenge to sitting MP Raymond Pryce in St Elizabeth North Eastern, which was to have taken place yesterday in Santa Cruz, was on Friday unexpectedly postponed by the PNP leadership to next Saturday (Sept 12).

Pryce, who comfortably won the seat in the December 2011 general election, is being challenged by Santa Cruz businessman Evon Redman.

The party leadership said the postponement was due to a desire for a cooling off of "tensions" in the constituency.

But yesterday placard- and flag-bearing supporters of Redman marched through Santa Cruz, protesting the action by their leaders in Kingston. Spokespersons for the demonstrators said the delegate selection was being postponed for the second time, and they wanted to make sure there will be no further delays beyond Saturday.

Sandra Dobson, a member of the PNP's St Elizabeth North Eastern executive said Comrades felt they had to take to the streets because of rumours that there was an intention to abandon the contest.

She argued that while there had been tension in the constituency in recent weeks, calm had prevailed since intervention by the PNP hierarchy, as well as the police high command in St Elizabeth.

"There is no good reason to have postponed the contest, and we want the PNP leadership to fully understand how we feel," Dobson said.

Local political observers say that as the situation now stands, Redman, who has had strong links with the St Elizabeth North Eastern constituency organisation since the early 1970s is likely to easily win the delegates vote.

St Elizabeth North East is a flagship constituency for the PNP in rural Jamaica. In the parliamentary elections of December 2011, Pryce, despite taking over leadership of the constituency at very short notice, defeated the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party's Corris Samuels by 4,068 votes.

By contrast, St Elizabeth South Western is among the classic swing seats in Jamaican politics. In 2007, the Jamaica Labour Party's Christopher Tufton won St Elizabeth South Western seat by close to 2,000 votes. But in December 2011 Tufton lost to Buchanan by 13 votes.

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