Norman anxious to get the job 'Dunn'

Norman anxious to get the job 'Dunn'

New state minister excited about serving with veteran Audley Shaw


Sunday, September 20, 2020

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SOON after the deal of reproduction was done, the names Norman and Alexander emerged as firm possibilities for that special June day when birth would become reality.

That's why Dr Norman Dunn, the Member of Parliament for St Mary South Eastern, and lately minister of state in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce had to become involved in politics – he was named after two of Jamaica's political leaders and national heroes, Norman Washington Manley and Sir Alexander Bustamante.

The names were given to him by his father Wesley, now deceased, who was thought to be pro-People's National Party (PNP), and who, for a peaceful life, decided to balance the political scales with mom Eulalee, who had Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) sympathies. She is still alive and well at age 91.

Norman Manley served as the first president of the PNP, founded in 1938; and Bustamante was the founding leader of the JLP, which began as an organisation in 1943 and went on to win Jamaica's first general election a year later.

“I was told I was named after both of them,” Dr Dunn told the Jamaica Observer, in reference to the national heroes, during an interview at the end of his first day on the job at the ministry whose policy head is Audley Shaw, Member of Parliament.

“When I was growing up I always said to people, 'You nuh see the names me have … Norman Manley, hero, and Alexander Bustamante, hero. So I am going to turn a hero for you,” he said. “I was always thinking that way, never knowing that I would ever get involved in the political process, because that's not something that I strived for at all.”

What then perked his interest in politics?

It was his good friend and fellow Annotto Bay man Donovan Thomas, now Rev Dr Thomas, who coaxed him to consider offering himself for higher service, in the form of political representation.

“One day Donovan and his wife saw me cutting the grass on a piece of land that I maintain next to the post office at Hughenden, and suggested that I think about going into politics.

“A meeting was set up, Bobby Montague (MP for St Mary Western) and I got a 6:00 am call the next day, because there was no representative for the JLP in South East St Mary, following the resignation of Richard (Creary) from the position.”

The process flowed naturally. Dr Dunn, in 2014, beat Lennon Richards by four votes in a run-off to represent the JLP in the seat but he went on to lose, in controversial fashion, to Dr Winston Green by five votes in the general election of February 2016. After a magisterial recount, the JLP contested the legality of the election process in the seat, and the judge decided to have an election re-run for October of 2017, mere days before the untimely death of Dr Green in August of that year.

The matter of the naming of a by-election date was not communicated to the public, but later on, Prime Minister Andrew Holness scheduled it for October 30, 2017, the same day that the judge had originally decided, which coincided with the victory by the JLP in the 1980 General Election. Dr Dunn secured a win over medical practitioner Dr Shane Alexis by more than 900 votes.

Dr Dunn had earlier insisted to the party that the only seat he would contest was that in St Mary South Eastern, as he was born there and knew sections of the area very well.

Now, the man who will mark his third year in elective politics on November 2, is anxious to make a positive intervention in his contribution to supporting the executive, and in particular, achieve the goals of the ministry, which is regarded as one of the engines of gross domestic product growth.

The foundation has been laid already – he has an “excellent” relationship with his senior. All the beakers, Bunsen burners and other apparatus are in place for the perfect chemistry between the two. Of course, Shaw was among the prominent party elders who worked overtime in communities like Lewis Store (Bromley), Clonmel, Belfield, Richmond, Annotto, Epsom, Enfield, Baxter's Mountain, Luna, among others, to lay the foundation for Dunn's political take-off in 2017.

“I am happy with my assignment at industry, investment and commerce,” Dr Dunn revealed. “In fact, anywhere the prime minister wished to send me would have been appropriate, and I look forward to doing some meaningful things with Minister Shaw, my dear friend and colleague; permanent secretary Dermon Spence, who is really a good guy, and the staff of the ministry.

“The work has started and already I have been involved in some productive meetings with potential investors that have a positive ring for Jamaica,” said the businessman whose most pronounced trademark activity is a chain of pharmacies in strategic locations across Jamaica.

Dr Dunn was born in Annotto Bay, shared time at Annotto Bay Primary with his duties at the town's market selling with his mother, and ended up at Water Valley Primary in the central St Mary village of Albany, home of noted deejay Josey Wales, from which he passed the Common Entrance Examination for Dinthill Technical High School in Linstead, St Catherine.

The College of Arts, Science of Technology, now University of Technology, Jamaica; opened its doors to the rising academic talent. He obtained a Bachelor's degree in pharmacy; Bachelor's degree in management economics and accounts from The University of the West Indies (UWI), Master's degree in international business also from the UWI, and the Doctorate in pharmacy, having gone back to the University of Technology, with a three-month internship at the University of Florida.

After becoming the first individual from Annotto Bay to become MP, Dr Dunn has gone a step further as the first state minister from the community that in recent years has seen an uptick in crime, including gun-related activities, though the statistics have dropped in the last 18 months, but still remain a concern for law enforcers.

The last election saw him becoming the first representative to win all four divisions in St Mary South Eastern, including a historic triumph in the Belfield Division, traditionally a PNP stronghold, by 142 votes. That went with victories by 825 votes in the JLP-dominated Castleton Gardens Division, 504 in the equally JLP-strong Richmond Division, and 260 in the swinging Annotto Bay Division. He polled 7,133, overall, votes to Alexis' 5,402 for a majority of 1,731, itself a record since the constituency was so officially named in 1967.

The previous record margin of victory was 1,714 achieved by the JLP's Alva Ross over the PNP's Derrick Webb in the bloody general election of 1980 which claimed the lives of 844 Jamaicans, by police official count. Then, Ross polled 6,084 votes and Webb 4,370 in an election that officials claim had more vote rigging than any other in Jamaica's history. Ross is deceased.

In the October 2017 by-election, Dr Dunn beat Dr Alexis by 937 votes. The victor had 8,176 individuals expressing confidence in him, while 7,239 did likewise for Dr Alexis.

“My victory cut across party lines,” Dr Dunn stated. “Known PNP supporters voted for me, I think because of my visibility and relationship with the people, particularly the youth, many of whom said they like how I roll and my down to earth style.

“There were boxes that the JLP was winning for the first time, like both in Broadgate, Lewis Store, Job's Hill, Luna, Gray's Inn, which before were always won by the PNP,” said Dr Dunn, who also put his victory down to “some divine things that have happened in my life”.

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