Slowley insists he will take St Elizabeth seat from PNP

Slowley insists he will take St Elizabeth seat from PNP

'Argument done', says JLP aspirant

BY GARFIELD MYERS
Editor-at-Large
South Central Bureau
myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 30, 2020

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth – Only in 1980, when Edward Seaga's Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) swept to power by a massive landslide, has the People's National Party (PNP) lost the St Elizabeth North Eastern (NE) seat.

The PNP boycotted the parliamentary elections of 1983. But since 1989, St Elizabeth North Eastern has stood as a bastion of PNP power in rural Jamaica.

Now, in the final approach to the September 3 Parliamentary Election, Santa Cruz-based businessman Delroy Slowley, insists he is the “agent of change” about to bring home the constituency for the JLP.

Slowley is apparently in no way swayed by the reality that he will be up against the PNP's Basil Waite, long considered among the more popular politicians in St Elizabeth, not just the North Eastern constituency.

“I am the Action Man,” trumpeted Slowley as he addressed journalists, following his nomination on August 18 in Santa Cruz.

“I am very confident of taking this election [for the JLP]. For 30 years we have seen absolute neglect of the people, with the poorer class of the people being marginalised...” he said.

Few politicians nominated to face voters on September 3 have as intriguing a political past as does Slowley.

He came to prominence in 2016 as an independent candidate in St Elizabeth North Eastern, gaining 696 votes as Redman took the seat by a 1,524-vote majority. Redman polled 7,733 ahead of the JLP's Saphire Longmore's 6,209.

It was well known at the time that Slowley had benefited considerably from discord within the PNP camp.

Anger at the decision to drop then Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce as candidate and replace him with Redman led to some Comrades breaking ranks and throwing their support behind Slowley.

After that election in 2016, Slowley, openly flirted with the Portia Simpson Miller-led PNP which had been voted out of power.

In July of that year Slowley and a group of supporters attended the public session of a PNP St Elizabeth North Eastern Constituency Conference. Simpson Miller invited Slowley to the platform, hugged him, kissed him on the cheek, and described him as “Comrade 'Gairy' Slowley”.

At the time, Redman declared on the platform that he was open to working with Slowley in his quest to unite the PNP in St Elizabeth North Eastern.

But within two years, Slowley had joined the JLP and was swiftly elevated as that party's candidate for St Elizabeth North Eastern.

Formally introducing Slowley to Labourites in Burnt Savannah – heartland of JLP power in the Santa Cruz Division of St Elizabeth NE – in late August 2018, prime minister and JLP Leader Andrew Holness applauded Slowley's approach to politics.

The prime minister told Labourites at the time that Slowley had spent “his own money” on community work and in funding his independent campaign, while exposing himself to the “vicissitudes of Jamaican politics”.

“For him [Slowley] to do that shows that he has a genuine love, care and concern for the people. That he garnered so many votes shows people love, respect him, and take him seriously …” said Holness back then.

At that meeting in Burnt Savannah two years ago, Slowley pledged to continue community work and to function as a “Member of Parliament” even before being elected.

Following his nomination recently, Slowley insisted that he had carried out that pledge, pointing to work he had done to improve infrastructure across St Elizabeth NE.

“From the moment that I have stepped into the seat I have been the candidate for North East. I have said to my people, I will not be waiting until I become the Member of Parliament officially.

“I have said I am going to start making sure ... doing the work of a Member of Parliament. I have been fixing roads, providing water for communities that haven't been receiving water for 30 years.

“If you go up to Mitcham [near Goshen], there is a 'water shop' up there with 2,000 gallons of water that we provide for them. In Siloah there is another 'water shop' up there that we provide for them. In Southampton, Leeds, Pepper, [there are] roads that we have done,” he said.

Slowley insisted that “interest” rather than access to “resources” had motivated his activism.

“Where do I get the rersources? I don't have the resources, but it's the interest you have. Interest is what makes the difference. You could have all the resources that you want but without the proper interest you will not get it done,” he said.

He suggested that his approach was unique in Jamaican politics.

“I have been doing the work of a Member of Parliament. There is no other candidate throughout the history of Jamaica, any candidate or caretaker, that has done the work that Delroy 'Gairy' Slowley has done...” he said.

In 2018, Slowley told the Jamaica Observer that he had chosen to join the JLP largely because of what he discerned to be Holness's capacity as a leader and the Government's management of the economy.

He told journalists much the same thing on Nomination Day.

“Why have I chosen the Jamaica Labour Party? When I look at the people in leadership, when I look at the macro indicators that were there, it had to be the Jamaica Labour Party,” he said.

Local political observers agree that to overturn the PNP stranglehold on St Elizabeth North Eastern, Slowley and the JLP will have to not only overwhelmingly take the Santa Cruz Division with a heavy turn out of Labourites, but also significantly erode PNP power in Siloah, Brae's River and Balaclava.

Back in 2018, Holness argued that Slowley's relatively strong performance as an independent candidate in 2016 was a sign of St Elizabeth NE “changing its political nature” and becoming ripe for the taking by the JLP.

On Nomination Day, Slowley insisted that the “time for a change” had come, and he would get the job done on September 3.

“Argument done, Action Man time now,” he boasted.


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