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Bennett hailed as West Central St Catherine's best ever MP

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

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Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) officials and residents of St Catherine West Central last Friday night paid tribute to late former Member of Parliament Enid Bennett who died on December 22 after a brief illness.

From early in the evening residents lit candles along the Kitson Town main road, while a sound system played music fit for the occasion from a tent in the community square.

Leading the many tributes, current MP Dr Christopher Tufton told the gathering that Bennett made “significant contribution” to the constituency, her country, and the JLP.

He described Bennett as “the best member of parliament that West Central St Catherine has seen”, pointing out that he arrived at that conclusion after travelling communities in the constituency and hearing stories of the performance and caring that she demonstrated during her over 30 years as the parliamentary representative.

Bennett started serving the JLP at a young age as a branch delegate before joining the staff of then MP for St Catherine Central and Minister of Home Affairs Roy McNeill, as his personal and constituency secretary.

She was later elected councillor for the Sligoville Division in the St Catherine Parish Council, before replacing McNeill as MP in 1967 when he moved to St Catherine Eastern.

Bennett went on to win seven consecutive general elections – two in St Catherine Central and five more in St Catherine West Central — setting a record for female MPs of 30 continuous years as a legislator in the House of Representatives.

Between 1980 and 1982 she served as minister of state in the Ministry of Local Government, after which she held the position of junior minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security between 1982 and 1989.

In his tribute on Friday, Tufton said he had learnt a lot from Bennett during his short time in representational politics.

He added that celebration of her life will continue until the date when she will be given a “special send off”.

Former councillor for the Point Hill Division, Elkanah Rhule, recounted the “hot battle” between Bennett and then Mayor of Spanish Town AU King for the right to be the JLP standard bearer for the newly created St Catherine Central constituency.

“Near the end of it, they cooled the battle, and Enid Bennett was selected to be the candidate,” he said, stressing that she used love to “cement” her place, defeating opponent after opponent over the years.

Another former councillor, who represented the Ginger Ridge Division, Hyman Smith, said no other MP was able to “cut and share” from the annual $3 million allocation that all MPs received at the time for their constituencies. He also said Bennett had the exceptional skill of knowing people by name in many villages in the constituency.

Keith Blake, who served as councillor for the Independence City Division in St Catherine South Eastern, also addressed the event, while councillor for the Red Hills Division, Keith McCook, asked constituents to rally around Dr Tufton, as they did for Bennett and Dr Kenneth Baugh, who represented the constituency before Tufton.

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