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Disquiet in PNP NE St Elizabeth camp

Conference put off, as Waite aims for Pryce’s crown

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 24, 2014    

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — There is considerable disquiet in the People's National Party (PNP) North East St Elizabeth constituency organisation following the indefinite postponement of a constituency conference scheduled for yesterday here.

Reports from reliable sources have said that sitting Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce would have been challenged for the chairmanship of the constituency by Basil Waite who handily won a selection process back in 2010.

However, the party had recommended to delegates across the island, at a recent meeting of the National Executive Council, that no challenges should be held this year.

Waite, who had defeated the PNP Region Five chairman Wensworth Skeffery in that selection was subsequently replaced by Pryce as the party's flag bearer for NE St Elizabeth just weeks before the December 2011 elections. The reasons for his replacement were never officially confirmed.

Neither Pryce nor Waite could be contacted by telephone yesterday.

Skeffery, a government senator, as well as constituency leaders kept mostly sealed lips when the Jamaica Observer made contact yesterday. Skeffery would only say that the party hierarchy had issued instructions for an indefinite postponement.

However, some sources who insisted on anonymity said they believed the party leadership in Kingston acted out of "fear" that the sitting MP would have been defeated.

"There is no doubt that Basil would have won the delegates' vote and that is why they called off the conference," a reliable source said.

Another unconfirmed report reaching the Sunday Observer said that informal canvasses had suggested that most delegates were in favour of Waite.

The source fumed that "nobody from the party secretariat has come in to explain" and that delegates had heard of the postponement through the broadcast media.

"We (NE St Elizabeth constituency organisation) are a recognised organisation with more than 100 paid-up groups; we deserve respect," the source said.

Another high-ranking member of the constituency organisation said that there was real concern about the "timing" of Waite's challenge, well over two years ahead of the next constitutionally due parliamentary election.

Under Jamaican law, parliamentary elections must be held every five years but the prime minister can send the nation to the polls at any time prior to that.

"This is mid-term ... all a challenge such as this will do is undermine the sitting MP and lead to instability and brawling in the constituency," the latter source said.

North East St Elizabeth is routinely considered a power base for the PNP in rural Jamaica. In the 2011 election, Pryce defeated the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Corris Samuels by over 3,000 votes.

In 2007 when the national swing was in favour of the JLP, Kern Spencer of the PNP defeated Samuels by well in excess of 2,000 votes.

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