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Settle those differences, PNP official tells members

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

Sunday, March 30, 2014    

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LUCEA, Hanover — Hyacinth Shakes-Warren, the People's National Party (PNP) Hanover West constituency chairman, has called for an amicable resolution to the bitter conflict that she said could destroy the governing party's machinery in the constituency.

"I hope that for the party's sake the matter will be resolved amicably and they will stop this whole foolishness which is not good for the party," Shakes-Warren told the Jamaica Observer on Friday.

She was referring to a slew of charges and counter charges between supporters loyal to Member of Parliament for the area, Ian Hayles and Lucea Mayor Shernett Haughton, who is also the chairman of the PNP-controlled Hanover Parish Council.

Haughton, who represents the Green Island Division, has for several weeks been under pressure from the majority of councillors at the council to step down as chairman.

The councillors, who seemingly have the support of Hayles, have said that they are dissatisfied with Haughton's leadership of the local authority and have vowed to unseat her.

Three weeks ago, the monthly general meeting of the Hanover Parish Council fell through due to the lack of a quorum, as the controversy surrounding Haughton's leadership of the local authority appeared to be deepening.

The meeting was scheduled to begin at 10:00 am. However, just over an hour later, the mayor entered the chambers and thanked members of various State-run agencies, Parish Development Committee representatives and members of the media for coming out. She latter stated that the meeting had fallen through because of the lack of a quorum.

Then, just over a week ago at a workers meeting at the Green Island High School, Hayles made several pronouncements -- deemed by many to be disrespectful to the mayor- as he sought to explain the reasons for the impasse between the councillors and the mayor.

The MP's pronouncements have since been condemned by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), as well as the Association of Local Government Authorities (ALGA), who have called on Hayles to apologise to the embattled Mayor.

On Friday, Shakes-Warren who said that she was in attendance at the March 20 workers meeting, told the Sunday Observer that she believes that both Hayles and the mayor should apologise for their behaviour at the meeting.

Arguing that the public should not be told "just one side of the story", Shakes-Warren stressed that during the meeting "the MP reacted to what the Mayor did."

She argued that "as an official he (Hayles) should not have reacted the way he did."

"He has to think and be careful as to how he reacts to certain situations, so he should come out and publicly apologise," the PNP constituency vice-chair argued.

She stressed however, that Haughton needs to apologise for "what she did in the meeting, and she needs to apologise because she is the mayor and can't behave like that".

"As a woman I was very, very, embarrassed by the way the mayor behaved in that meeting. I was so embarrassed that I don't even want to talk about how embarrassed I am, and I am not taking sides," said Shakes-Warren.

"And all the other women who have been making comments on Hayles' reaction to the mayor's behaviour at the meeting, would be embarrassed too if they were at the meeting and saw how the mayor behaved there."

It is alleged that while Hayles was addressing the comrades, the mayor entered the room with a group of supporters and behaved in a vulgar manner.

Efforts to contact Haughton yesterday were unsuccessful, while Hayles, who is also the Minister of State for water, land, environment and climate change, declined to comment on the matter.

Former PNP secretary for the Green Island Division, Patrice Fullington, who claimed that she was in attendance at the meeting, believes too that the mayor should apologise.

"The mayor should apologise to the MP and the women whom she disrespected at the meeting," said Fullington, adding that Hayles was reacting to the Haughton's behaviour.

"I am not taking sides. I have worked for both of them (Hayles and Haughton), but we need to call a spade a spade. The MP would not disrespect women. He instead elevated them," Fullington argued, adding that it was Hayles who assisted Haughton to become the first woman mayor of the parish's main town of Lucea.

A former PNP Women's Movement representative, Fullington too, is calling for an end to the impasse.

"I don't like what is going on. We can't move on like this; we need all of this to be quickly settled because it is not good for the party," she argued.

But Paul Trench, a losing PNP candidate in the Lucea Division during the 2007 Local Government polls, believes that it will be difficult to unify the constituency as long as Hayles remains the party's standard bearer in West Hanover.

"A number of persons, including myself, have walked away from the political process because of his autocratic style of leadership. He does not have the capacity and capability to lead. The best thing is for him to step away," stressed Trench.

The former PNP candidate, who was among a handful of party supporters who demonstrated in Lucea last Wednesday in support of Mayor Haughton's leadership of the council, and for Hayles to step down as MP, said that Hayles, who has been the elected representative for Hanover West since 2007, has failed to develop the constituency.

But Shakes-Warren believes that Hayles is one of the better members of parliament whom the constituency has ever had.

"He is a good MP. As far as I am aware of the different representatives we have had in Hanover, he is so far, the best one," said Shakes-Warren.

"He is getting a lot of work done in the parish. Work is now taking place on a major pipeline project in Hanover to Negril; he has repaired a number of roads; refurbished the Noel Holmes Hospital; refurbished the Logwood and Caudwell centres; he had provided grants for small businesses; made available livestock to farmers," she noted.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Observer understands that investigators from the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has started a probe at the Hanover Parish Council into allegations of nepotism in the awarding of contracts.

The OCG investigators reportedly seized a number of computers and files from the offices of the local authority last week, as part of their investigations.

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