St Mary JLP councillor in running for St Ann North West seat

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

Sunday, December 01, 2019

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A councillor in the St Mary Municipal Corporation is the ideal candidate to 'green up' for the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the St Ann North Western seat in the next general election, if her fans have their way.

And the scale may be tipped slightly in favour of councillor Krystal Lee of the Retreat division (Western St Mary Western) in the St Mary Municipal Corporation, following last Tuesday's disclosure by JLP general secretary that Kim Brown Lawrence, who was slated to become the candidate, would not be put forward to contest the poll, due by February 2021, but widely expected in the first half of next year.

Brown Lawrence, councillor for the Brown's Town division in the St Ann Municipal Corporation, is facing criminal charges in connection with the corruption probe at the Ministry of Education and the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) that led to the arrest and charge of former Education Minister Ruel Reid, his wife Sharen, daughter Sharelle; and president of the CMU, Professor Fritz Pinnock, who are all on bail, pending mention dates next year.

General secretary of the JLP Dr Horace Chang told Radio Jamaica last Tuesday that Brown Lawrence had been ruled out as a candidate and a replacement would be found. She had been provisionally ushered in following the party's rejection of Reid, a former senator and the originally preferred choice to go up against incumbent Dr Dayton Campbell of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP).

Lee, one of five JLP councillors in St Mary Western who all won their seats in the last local government election, and senior manager of petrol operations and projects at petrol empire Cool Oasis, is seen as one of the party's shining lights for the future. She is a PhD candidate, preparing to defend her thesis in a business administration-related discipline next year.

Dr Chang confirmed to the Jamaica Observer that Lee had applied to the party to be its candidate. He also revealed that another candidate, lawyer Ernest “Ernie” Smith, a former Member of Parliament (MP) for the adjoining constituency of St Ann South Western, had also applied.

Smith had earlier expressed an interest in the Trelawny North seat but quit as caretaker in October 2015, four months before the February 2016 General Election.

Dr Chang, who is also minister of national security and Member of Parliament for St James North Western, said that the apparatus to choose the representative would be put in place soon.

“She (Lee) has applied, and Ernie has also applied, and those are the two up to now, although other names have been mentioned. So we will do the interviews, go through the process, go into the constituency and speak with the people and we will decide after that,” Dr Chang said.

Dr Campbell is serving his second term as MP in a constituency that has fluctuated between the JLP and PNP over the years. The PNP's machinery suffered a setback in the last local government election in divisions that they were strong, among them losing Brown's Town to Brown Lawrence — the first time that the party was losing the seat in the history of municipal polls; along with Discovery Bay, and Bamboo.

The Sunday Observer understands that Dr Campbell has got closer to his constituents, and holds regular meetings in a bid to power home his message of laying the foundation for a better standard of living for them. Dr Campbell, a medical practitioner and attorney-at-law, also runs medical clinics in the geographically large constituency.

But one senior JLP advocate suggested that a fresh injection of energy by the Labour Party, following the bounce that it got from the staging of its annual conference last Sunday, could bring more relevance to the political fight.

The senior JLP man, who had not heard of Smith's interest at the time, said that Lee, the founding president of Generation 2000 in St Mary would be the “perfect opponent” for Dr Campbell.

“She is vibrant, energetic, beautiful and generally someone who cares for people — all qualities that can get you places in politics,” the elder said. “Krystal would be a good choice; in fact, the right choice, but we will just have to see how it goes with the selection process.”

Lee is understood to have over 15 years experience in political work. She is a former head girl of Anglican school St Hilda's in Brown's Town and has also been involved in the work of the Kiwanis organisation in St Ann.

“A she a di right lick,” one of Lee's fans who attended the JLP's annual conference last Sunday at the National Arena in St Andrew last Sunday told the Sunday Observer on Wednesday. “She can bring back North West St Ann to wi. A one nice woman, an people love her, for as much as she come from St Mary, she popular ina St Ann,” the labourite said.

Another who is all for the move to give Lee greater responsibility, visibility and respect said that she would make a good MP. “The way things set now, is time we as labourite look at more young people fi run the politics. Ms Lee can do the job, an she would be a good candidate fi beat (Dr) Campbell,” a Salem, Runaway Bay supporter suggested.

The last successful woman candidate in the seat for the JLP was Verna Parchment, who beat former MP and cultural historian Arnold “Scree” Bertram of the PNP in 2002. Parchment, a nurse by professional training, crossed the floor of Parliament and became a member of the ruling PNP, just three years into her stint as a member of the Opposition benches in 2006, before emigrating to the United States when the JLP won the general election in 2007, saying at the time that she would not “live under” a JLP Government, led at the time by Bruce Golding.

Parchment was next spotted in Jamaica in December 2011 when the PNP regained State power at that time, but said then that she was merely visiting, as she had a full-time job in the USA, but would not rule out returning to Jamaica.

Last Sunday, prime minister and JLP Leader Andrew Holness encouraged his party's supporters to start sniffing at possibilities as the island goes into higher gear for a general election at the emergence of a new year, a month from now.

Holness, in delivering the main address at the party's conference, drew on a bell, one of the party's symbols, to loud cheers from thousands inside and outside of the National Arena.


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