Come April, 4 the JLP's Vaz will beat the PNP's Crawford

Garfield Higgins

Sunday, March 31, 2019

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If the inhabitants of the village are happy, you need to look for the village chief. — Bassa proverb, Liberia

The Portland Eastern by-election is four days from today. Last Tuesday and Wednesday I made a third visit — my first visit was Sunday, February 24, 2019; the second was on Sunday, March 10, 2019 — to sections of the following areas: Prospect, Port Antonio, Fairy Hill, Fellowship, and Manchioneal. I wanted to hear from citizens how they intended to vote and why. Here are snippets:

1. An unemployed man in his early 20s, who lives in Fellowship, told me he was anxious to cast his ballot for the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Ann-Marie Vaz. “Why,” I asked. “I need a steady work, mi boss,” he said. “Ms Vaz look out fi people, yuh see mi,” he declared. He told me he did not want any handout. “I don't want nutten free from nobody,” he ventured. “I can duh welding and carpentry, good, good,” he submitted.

2. A single mother in her mid-20s, who lives in Fellowship, said Vaz is one of them. I asked her to elaborate. “She deh here day in, day out; sometime mi wonder, is like she deh everywhere,” she commented. “Mi talk wid har two times already,” she said. “Mi tell har 'bout, mi baby, and how the pupa nuh care,” she said, obviously disgusted. “Ms Vaz mek mi feel dat mi have hope, and dat is why mi a go vote fi har,” she remarked rather optimistically.

3. A small cook shop owner, who lives in Fellowship and said he was in his mid-50s, told me his vote would go to the People's National Party (PNP). “Mi ah long time PNP; can't change,” he said. “Mi and P J Patterson born pon the same day, April 10,” he said as he stirred the curried chicken in a shiny Dutch pot. “Mi grow up inna PNP family, mi love PNP gone to bed,” he noted. “Crawford have nuff work fi duh, still,” he said. I asked him to explain. “Yuh see, Bloomfield, neva did do much from Danny Rhodd leave,” he volunteered. “So tings run dung ah way, especially fi the younger generation,” he advanced.

4. A taxi driver in Port Antonio said he was going to be one of the first at the polling station on April 4. I asked him why. “Freedom,” he said. “What do you mean,” I asked. “Di PNP suffer di people dem too much,” he opined. “Freedom, wi want now,” he reasoned.

5. A high school teacher who lives in Port Antonio told me she would be voting for the candidate she believed would better address what she said were the two biggest issues in Portland Eastern. I asked her to elaborate. “Lack of skills training for the youth and lack of job opportunities in the constituency,” she outlined. Her priorities matched what other constituents told me on my previous visits. I asked her which of the two candidates she believed could better tackle the issues. “Mrs Vaz has shown already that she has the ability, connections, and the time to devote to the constituency,” she submitted. “I don't see Senator Crawford in that light,” she said. “I want someone who will lobby for and represent the interests of East Portland. I don't want just a seat holder in Parliament. Mrs Vaz is the better fit right now,” she proposed.

6. A nurse who lives in Port Antonio said she would vote for Vaz because she was genuine. I asked her to comment further: “You can see that she not pretending,” she reasoned. “She is not looking money, she has money already,” she reasoned. “I feel in my heart of hearts, deep down in my heart, that Mrs Vaz loves the people of Portland,” she said.

7. A restaurant owner in Port Antonio, who said she was living in Portland for just over 20 years, told me Vaz has something which Senator Crawford has not demonstrated. I asked her to say more. “She is humble,” she noted. “I like people who are humble and respectful,” she said. “The Senator, from what I have seen in the media, is just too self-absorbed; we have had many of those types of politicians, I have seen many come and go, Portland does not need another right now,” she remarked.

8. A barber in his mid-30s, who lives in Port Antonio, told me that the late Member of Parliament Dr Lynvale Bloomfield gave him a lot of help when he started his business less than a decade ago. “A really sorry fi what happen to Dr Bloomfield,” he said. “Him help me out nuff time, I have fi respect dat,” he noted. I asked him to explain. “Dr Bloomfield help mi get dis place to rent, him put in a good word fi mi to the man who own it,” he outlined. “Nuh matter the rumours and ting, I still respect dat, him help mi start this business yah,” he submitted.

9. A mother of two in her late 20s, who lives in Manchioneal, was very upbeat about the April 4 by-election. “Mi mind done mek up from January,” she remarked. “Who for?” I asked. “Mrs Ann-Marie Vaz,” she responded with a broad smile. “The lady is so nice; she mek yuh feel comfortable, she nah pop nuh style pon nobody, that is what I love wid har,” she posited.

10. A shopkeeper in her late 60s, in Manchioneal, said Senator Damion Crawford was the better of the two candidates. “Give the young man a chance,” he said. “Why,” I asked. “Listen to mi, PNP is my middle name,” he submitted. “I am going to vote for PNP, because PNP love the poorer class dem,” he said.

11. A small farmer in his late 40s, in Manchioneal wasted no time in declaring where he would put his 'X' on April 4. “I only sorry I cyaan vote more than one time for the lady,” he said assuredly. “PNP mash up East Portland, time to stop di damage,” he remarked.

12. A retired policeman in his early 80s in Prospect told me that PNP ran deep in his family and he could not betray the family tradition, plus he argued that Crawford reminded him of a young D K Duncan in the 70s. “The Senator look like he will help bring back the party to its senses,” he said, “Explain that,” I said. “The PNP look too much like the JLP today,” he reasoned. “What do you mean,” I pressed. “The PNP is a socialist party, the JLP is not,” he submitted. “D K needs to teach the younger ones what it means to be PNP, like he did in the 70s, in those days you gathered in small groups and were taught the principles of the party,” he said in a matter of fact manner. He continued, “Mr Crawford, based on some of what he has said so far, looks like he is thinking about bringing back those days,” he said. We chatted for a good while about crime in the country and the states of public emergency. He had some very strong views. I might share some in a future piece.

13. A recent graduate of a traditional high school in Portland, who lives in Prospect, told me his father who lives in America had filed for him and the process was nearing completion. He told me he was glad he would get the opportunity to vote before he migrated. “East Portland needs rescue,” he said after contemplation. “We have to break the cycle,” he posited. “We have to change if we want change,” he reasoned. “Mrs Vaz is a chance to change, that is my answer as to whom I will vote for next week,” he concluded.

14. A retired health inspector who lives in Prospect told me it was a matter of choosing the better of two evils. “I vote because it is my civic duty,” he said. “I am not really big into politics,” he noted. “This turn I am going to vote for the JLP; their candidate has done enough so far to impress me,” he remarked. “East Portland is a beautiful place, but it lacks the kind of development which can keep it beautiful and create opportunities for Portlanders at the same time,” he opined. “I have been to several countries, and I know what I am talking about is possible,” he submitted.

15. A young farmer in his early 30s, who lives in Fairy Hill, told me that it did not matter whether the PNP's candidate was Andrea Moore or Damion Crawford. “I love PNP from mi a grow up, and mi father people dem is all PNP,” he said.

16. A tourism worker (supervisory level) in his early 40s, who lives in Fairy Hill but works in Port Antonio, said he was going to vote for Mrs Vaz because she understands the problems of Portland and can best address them. “Our MP must live in Portland,” he said. “You cannot come to Portland for three weeks to campaign and really convince me that you know Portland,” he reasoned. “Mrs Vaz has lived in Portland for close to 20 years, she knows the problems and she has been on the ground,” he noted.

Calling It!

On October 24, 2015 I wrote this, among other things: “Whether the People's National Party (PNP) president and the country's prime minister calls the general and/or local government election in November, as some pundits predict and sections of the private sector are demanding, February 2016, as my sources insist; any time on or before December 29, 2016; or enter into a realm that no other political party has gone before — those additional three months allowed by the Jamaican Constitution — I sense that the PNP is headed for a crushing defeat similar to October 30, 1980.” ( Jamaica Observer, October 24, 2015)

I initially based my predictions mostly on information gathered from informal road trip interactions across the country in 2015, but primarily in marginal seats. Most pundits predicted then that the JLP would lose.

And remember the outrageous polls which predicted a 'landslide victory for the PNP'?

The Portia Simpson Miller Administration was booted from office after four long years of inhumane austerity, phenomenal ineptitude, rampant corruption, and mounting crime and violence.

The JLP won a 'landslide' victory. The JLP went into the February 25, 2016 national plebiscite with 21 seats and the PNP with 42. The JLP did not lose any, and simultaneously gained 11 of the PNP's. It is not rocket science! Any first-year student of local politics knows that between 1989-2007 the PNP increased its garrisons from eight to 15. The JLP has five garrisons.

The most recent parish council elections were held on November 28, 2016. Six months before, I predicted that the PNP would have been drubbed by the JLP.

Before the elections the PNP controlled 13 parish councils and the Portmore Municipal Council. Many pundits said the shine was gone from the JLP, which defeated the PNP in the February 25, 2016 General Election. They predicted a close parish council contest.

The JLP won eight parish councils, including the prized Kingston and St Andrew Corporation. The PNP won five.

While many political pundits hedged their bets, employed trite euphemisms coloured with self-delusional imaginings, and/or vacillated as to who would win the by-election in St Mary South Eastern, I wrote in my The Agenda piece that: “Dr Norman Dunn will win the by-election in St Mary South Eastern.” ( Jamaica Observer, October 8, 2017)

On Sunday, October 22, 2017, among other things, I wrote in this newspaper: “Given information which I gathered last Saturday and on National Heroes' Day, in the constituency, and findings from credible polls which a very kind soul put under my door, plus a well-oiled Jamaica Labour Party machine that has covered St Mary South Eastern from end to end, I can now say Dr Dunn will cross the finish line very comfortably ahead of the People's National Party's (PNP) Dr Shane Alexis.” ( Jamaica Observer, October 22, 2017).

Dr Dunn won by over 900 votes on October 30, 2017.

Given information which I gathered on three visits to Portland Eastern and the findings of the Jamaica Observer/Bill Johnson polls, plus a well-oiled JLP machine that has engaged Portland Eastern from end to end, I am predicting that the JLP will overturn the sizeable winning margin which Dr Lynvale Bloomfield registered in 2016. I am calling the by-election in Portland Eastern for the JLP's Ann-Marie Vaz. She will cross the finish line before Senator Damion Crawford and she won't be spent from the sprint.

Mail Alert!

Last Sunday I wrote in this newspaper inter alia: “The PNP National Executive Council (NEC) held a meeting in Hatfield, Manchester, on Sunday, February 5, 2017 that witnessed a fiery explosion from then Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller. Recall she chided men in the PNP who, she said, “...don't like female leadership”.

“Totally, off the cuff, unique and uncharacteristic,” among other things, that is how one of my regular readers who is a staunch PNP supporter categorised the former prime minister's fulmination in a rather long e-mail.

So I did a little research. I found this.

“PNP General Secretary Paul Burke says the party is guilty of mistreating its female members.

“Burke was speaking on Sunday at the 43rd [that should have been 78th — my insert] Annual Conference of the PNP's Women's Movement.

“He says it's time to end the discrimination of women in politics.

“Burke called on the PNP to not just look at women as 'ornamentals'.” ( Nationwide News Network, July 18, 2016)

Jamaica's best days are ahead. I am betting on Jamaica, full stop!

In each and every election it's your rights, it's your freedoms, it's your interests that are on the ballot. — Todd Young

Garfield Higgins is an educator and journalist. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.


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