A day on the campaign trail in St Mary

High energy as PNP, JLP dig deep to attract vital votes

Staff reporter

Sunday, October 29, 2017

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Driving along the Junction main road in St Mary, it is evident that an election is imminent.

The green or orange signs, banners, flags and wall art serve as clear indication that the Jamaican political machinery is in high gear.

In fact, even before crossing the border into St Mary the signs were plastered on posts in the neighbouring community, all with one thing in common — the word VOTE.

The imminent by-election, scheduled for tomorrow, was necessary after the sudden death of then sitting Member of Parliament Dr Winston Green. The Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Dr Norman Dunn, who lost by a mere five votes in the February 2016 General Election, is actively contesting the People's National Party's (PNP) Dr Shane Alexis.

A JLP victory in this seat would see a change in the parliamentary structure as one more seat would go to the ruling party as opposed to the current arrangement — an unprecedented one-seat majority in House of Representatives. The victory would make for a more comfortable Government in executing it's policies as it would have 33 seats, while the PNP would be down to 30 in the 63-seat House of Representatives.

Hence the intense focus being placed on campaigning in the rural constituency.

Campaigning got creative as even the green bamboos planted around breakaways to warn motorists of danger were also decorated with orange flags and scraps of fabric.

No light post was left bare as though the signs were posted a few feet apart, you could not miss the posters encouraging a vote for either candidate.

An old, decrepit truck —which is usually an eyesore along Junction — received a revamping as it was decorated with an orange banner draped across the surface. Operational vehicles were also decorated with various stickers and flags of each party tied to the back.

Some shopkeepers declared their hand by placing either an orange or green flag on their establishment.

In Castleton the words 'VOTE JLP' were sprayed in green along the retaining wall, shortly after which a large banner bearing the JLP candidate and the party leader was defaced, with the candidate's face torn.

Party supporters donned their green and orange paraphernalia and revelled to blaring music in small pockets along the roadway.

A green banner stretched across the roadway read “Argument Dunn”.

Traffic came to a standstill, music boomed in the distance, and a heavy police presence indicated that something 'special' was happening.

Flanked by multiple police personnel, the JLP Leader and Prime Minster Andrew Holness paraded his candidate Dr Norman Dunn through communities, stopping occasionally to interact with residents and party supporters.

“Showa!” a man bellowed in-between the loudly blown vuvuzelas.

Ahead of the motorcade were bike riders, all without helmets, ironically escorted by police outriders, the traffic now steadily moving along.

“Them and them political madness,” a man said as he passed revellers.

One woman, seemingly not bothered, swept her front yard as the team slowly made their way through the area.

Similarly, other motorists heading about their business grumbled as they came upon the blockade — an obvious inconvenience to their travels.

“So a weh dem a block up the road so fah,” a man questioned.

“Why di police dem nuh come direct di traffic,” another echoed at Broadgate as the motorcade stopped to purchase soup from roadside vendors.

The excitement came to a head when campaigning teams of the two parties collided.

Shouts of “powa” and “showa” permeated the air as party supporters danced and revelled in the music.

Former JLP member turned PNP supporter Joan Gordon Webley, amidst the excitement, now raised fists instead of her usual 'peace sign'.

The JLP, outnumbered, did not tarry in that vicinity but headed further and stopped to greet other residents.

Soon PNP supporters, hanging from vehicles went ahead of the JLP with one woman's derrière hung through a window, catching the attention of an officer in the PM's security detail.

Blurting a few expletives the bewildered officer said “a wah jus pass me yah so”.

The oft bumpy ride through Junction was eased as some pothole patching had been done. But the infamous section of the Junction road that sunk earlier this year was not yet repaired as motorists still tactically manoeuvred their way through the bad patch.

Despite the Yuletide season not having started, the tree nearest the taxi stand in the town of Annotto Bay was well decorated as connected flags and fabric blew in the wind.

The once-green area at the centre of Robert Schuman roundabout was interrupted by orange flags, rags and cloths as the PNP would not be left out.

In Annotto Bay, the coconut trees were laden not only with coconuts but also flags and coloured plastic strips from both major parties.

It was now on to Enfield, a bastion of the PNP.

“PNP People Power,” a banner that hung across the road read.

But in another section of the community, artists sprayed bells and “JLP” along a road surface.

The Enfield bridge was not spared as it too was painted green and white, with the letters “JLP” sprayed onto the beams.

The community square was abuzz with election talk as some constituents, though not wearing party colours, rallied around another JLP team campaigning while others watched from a distance.

The Belfield district came alive as residents — mainly PNP supporters — congregated at a bar, chatting and laughing together.

“Powa,” one man shouted as the news team passed through.

“This is a PNP zone,” a woman shouted.“Nobody no recognise Andrew Holness as Prime Minister. PNP want back them country.”

Upgraded from tying strings of fabric around light posts, the Belfield residents painted the lower half of the post in their preferred colours.

Though dusk had fallen and the area was dark, a team of contractors worked assiduously, using the light from their truck to patch potholes on Wednesday evening.

PNP was sprayed along a recently patched area that bore a darker shade of gray than the rest of the road.

Heading to Richmond, motorists tactically dodged potholes and breakaways.

PNP supporters gathered in the town square, idly watching the vehicles go by.

In the village of Cane Heap on the outskirts of Richmond, a sea of orange gathered at a shop where the party's meeting scheduled for 5:00 that evening would begin.

But at 7:26 pm Omar Newell, head of the PNP Patriots and host for the evening, announced: “I hear the motorcade just come through Richmond coming.”

A sea of orange rocked to the sound of music as they waited for their leaders.

Posters reading “100 per cent Jamaican” and “Fake Poll” were distributed to supporters as they drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, and rocked to the DJ's music.

At the team's arrival, the crowd expanded and a wave of revellers crowded around the stage.

All in all the energy in the South East St Mary constituency is quite high as the anticipation for Monday's election intensifies.




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