Rift over challenge to Raymond Pryce brings Comrades close to blows

Rift over challenge to Raymond Pryce brings Comrades close to blows

ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, June 22, 2015

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GOSHEN, St Elizabeth — What started out as a relatively orderly public session at the People's National Party (PNP) conference in the Braes River Division here, Saturday night, erupted in chaos that could barely be contained, even with increased police presence at the Goshen All Age School and pleas for calm.

Divided PNP supporters in the north-eastern end of the parish have been seething due to the challenge by businessman Evon Redman for the seat held by Raymond Pryce.

The hostility became obvious on the weekend when Redman arrived at the Goshen All Age School for the conference and briefly entered the platform area where Pryce and others were seated. Redman did not speak and seem to have left the room shortly after.

But a group of Comrades, who appeared to be a mixture of supporters of Pryce and those against him, became a permanent and disorderly fixture in front of the platform. Efforts by the police and various speakers -- including Mayor of Black River Everton Fisher -- to restore order to the meeting seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

"We cannot mash up PNP business", "We need to start back the public session", "Calm down", "Comrades, is one party", "United we stand, divided we fall", and "Unity is strength" were some of the phrases directed at the unruly audience, but to no avail.

When Councillor Errol Hummingbird (Ipswich Division of St Elizabeth North Western) got his chance at the microphone, there was no doubt that his backing was for Pryce.

"It is about time Comrades... We need to reason. What is it about the young man that you don't like? Yuh say him is a liar. All a we a damn liar...," he roared.

Hummingbird said some followed the crowd and crucified Christ, noting that, similarly, Pryce is being "pushed out", and some residents who are doing so are without a valid reason for their action.

"It's time for a showdown now. Raymond dem coming after yuh and dem coming after mi too, but let them come. I am not afraid. If this is the end of my career then so be it. I will go down in a flame of glory, not with my head between my knees," he passionately declared.

Hummingbird is set to be replaced by Mugabe Waite as the councillor candidate in his division. Waite is brother of Basil Waite, an ex-senator and former candidate for the St Elizabeth North Eastern.

Minister of Youth and Culture and Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern Lisa Hanna, who was guest speaker at the conference, said that Pryce is one of the young Comrades that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in her "wisdom" chose to represent the party.

She urged supporters to exercise discipline in their dealings, particularly as children were in the room and media personnel. Hanna cautioned Comrades to refrain from using the public forum to address the particular issues.


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