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Tufton ran away because of me, says Buchanan

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 02, 2014    

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HUGH Buchanan believes that his triumph in the St Elizabeth South West constituency, and his subsequent moves to stabilise and reinforce his own position, contributed to the resignation of Dr Christopher Tufton as constituency chairman and caretaker for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Buchanan, 32, beat Tufton by 13 votes in a stunning upset, part of a 42 to 21-seat annihilation by the People's National Party (PNP) of the JLP in the December 29, 2011 vote.

"Beating him and holding my own in terms of stabilising the constituency has to be the reason why he has quit, because if I hadn't won, then he would be the member of parliament, which would have given him different options over the last two years in terms of what he has done," Buchanan told the Jamaica Observer in an interview last week.

"So that could have set the platform for what we understand to be the cause of his resignation. That would have been the key to getting him out of the constituency," Buchanan said, following last Tuesday's decision by Tufton to rule himself out as JLP candidate in South West St Elizabeth for the next general election, constitutionally due in three years.

Tufton, a then Cabinet minister, served as MP for the constituency from September 2007 to December 2011.

Reflecting on his triumph over Tufton, Buchanan said that all along he expected the same result and was one of the few not to be surprised by the final outcome.

The legacy of his late father, Donald, plus the work that his mother, Dorothy and other party functionaries had put in, paved the way, he believes, for his defeat of Tufton and the former MP's subsequent decision to quit.

"Persons recognise my mother for her organisational skills, coming from South East Westmoreland as it was then, before it became Eastern Westmoreland; her being a councillor for two terms in South West St Elizabeth in one of our strong divisions — Brompton. But it is not just she and myself, and I don't take that victory from December 2011 as one that Hugo won. Yes, my name was on the ballot and I won, but there was an organisation in place and the majority of that organisation was basically put in place by former member of parliament Donald Buchanan, who also happens to be my father; by Dorothy Buchanan herself, who made Brompton one of the strongest divisions in St Elizabeth, and by other persons who would have gone through the movement before me.

"I inherited an organisation that already knew how to win elections. Also, those in it had suffered a bad defeat, they were upset that they had to be defeated that way and they were also motivated that although the swing was going to the PNP approaching the general election, that the seat that had always gone with the government since Independence was not being seen as getting that shift also, going to the PNP.

"So the workers in every polling division across the constituency had a lot of motivation. We did not have strength of cash in the general election, but the motivation that the people had and the desire to go out there and not only put in a PNP candidate as their next member of parliament, but also to get rid of Dr Tufton, whom they thought should have done more, especially because of the portfolio that he held for the majority of the time that he was in Government," Buchanan said.

"St Elizabeth is the bread basket, and he having the agriculture portfolio, they thought that he could have done a whole lot more for agriculture in St Elizabeth and in South West in particular," he said.

Buchanan said fisher folk in the fishing villages of South West St Elizabeth were also displeased with Tufton's approach to their sector. They felt the former MP had failed to properly represent their interests.

With Tufton no longer in the reckoning, Buchanan is aware that regardless of whom his next opponent will be, he needs to deliver in terms of projects for his constituents.

Apart from the regular issues with utilities, industrial development is a must, he believes.

"There is a need to establish major industries," he said. "In the western side of the constituency, the PCJ (Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica) has control of close to 3,000 acres of land. There is a little history behind it. I spoke to former Prime Minister (PJ) Patterson (about those lands) when I heard of the potential with the logistics hub and transshipment points and he told me that the land was earmarked for an oil refinery and chemical plant.

"I know that the environmentalists had objected to it then. They are doing the same thing now with Goat Islands. No iguanas exist there, just regular lizards, and there is a possibility of docking large ships in the Black River area.

"The Black River chapter of the St Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, with GT Taylor as the current president, has spoken about it, in terms of bringing that type of development there. The possibilities exist," he said.

Buchanan also spoke of the need for value-added initiatives to assist farmers in his constituency.

Agro-processing, he complained, is now only done in a very limited way in St Elizabeth.

"There is so much more that could be done in food processing in St Elizabeth, especially in my constituency," he argued.

"When I look at the Brompton area and I look at crops like cashew and plums, whenever you drive through the area at a time of the year when plums are available, you always see people out there with their little bags. Those are just what they are bringing to you. You know how many of them go to waste because there is no storage facility or having the factories in place that can turn these products from raw products into something that can be packaged and not only sold locally, but can be exported?" he asked.

"Black River has a port. If we can export the produce from St Elizabeth, then it would bring a lot of foreign exchange and investment into the parish.

"The major thing holding back our country is investments, that will put our people to work," Buchanan said.

In terms of overall food production, the member of parliament cited the need for an effective marketing programme to be introduced, so that the farmers can reap maximum benefit.

"We used to have hundreds of farmers who had direct contact with the hotels in Negril, Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay. Now, they only have two or three persons who come into the area to buy their produce. They pay cash and because of the harsh economic times, persons want to take the hard cash instead of waiting until two or three weeks that they would when they were having their direct contact with the hotels.

"That has impacted on the constituency heavily. One of the major persons involved in that spoke to me recently and said it just can't work," he said.

Irrigation too, he said, remained crucial to the growth of the agro-industry sector.

The young MP sees the need for that matter to be rectified, before he can realise another of his dreams.

"The fact that we have two major irrigation systems in the constituency — Hounslow system and the Little Park/Bacon system in Pedro Plains — means that that general area would be an ideal place for an agro park," he said.

"The farmers are knowledgeable, they have the experience, and whatever technical support that they would need, that extra support would come in with the agro-park and the technical people that would come in, because St Elizabeth has the potential to do more than it is doing now with the variety of crops.

"When you drive through the area, people who raise cows plant Guinea grass and some use it for mulching. But you still see too much of the land that has too much Guinea grass on it and not food production, especially in the irrigated areas.

"Persons who have agricultural lands, who are not producing, we need to bring something to Parliament that they are either forced to lease it, or sell it. But they can't sit down on it.

"Interestingly, the two communities that produce the most in the constituency, Flagaman and Round Hill, do not have irrigation. So can you imagine what could be achieved if they had irrigation?" Buchanan said.

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