SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Less than 24 hours after two of his former Comrades joined the Jamaica Labour Party, Councillor Lawton McKenzie on Friday morning declared his return to the People’s National Party, giving both parties six seats each in the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC).
This is the latest move in a political chess match for control of the local body which, like Thursday, will again throw the next council meeting in chaos.
Ian Myles, who along with McKenzie and Garfield James held aloft resignation letters in July to signal their departure from the PNP, initially dismissed McKenzie’s back-pedalling as inconsequential.
“His addition to their numbers is neither here nor there, as far as I am concerned,” Myles told the Jamaica Observer Friday afternoon. He opted not to explain his reasoning in order not to give away the JLP’s next move.
However, Myles later said McKenzie’s vote does, in fact, count but only because of what he alleged is playing with the rules concerning the position of mayor and chairman of the corporation, Bertel Moore.
“It will affect the numbers because there is a split, and if it is not played out based on rules then you can have divisiveness — as we had yesterday [Thursday] — if the chairman is oblivious to the law,” stated Myles.
He was referring to Thursday’s meeting which Moore abruptly ended before the JLP side had a chance to oust him.
“The chairman cannot try his own self; he cannot preside over his own fate, so he should have recused himself when it reached the point yesterday [Thursday] at the meeting,” argued Myles.
However, vice-president of the PNP with responsibility for minority councillors, Norman Scott disagreed. He told the Observer that the mayor has a vote under the Representation of the People Act.
“A chairman has a casting vote and an original vote; therefore, the chairman has two votes,” stated Scott.
Those are issues that will no doubt be hammered out at future meetings of the corporation as the tussle for power continues.
Meanwhile, in an interesting twist on Friday, Scott maintained that McKenzie’s resignation had not been accepted so, in reality, he never left the PNP.
“There was a picture in the papers with three councillors showing that they have written letters of resignation, [but] none came from Councillor McKenzie and therefore we could not have said that he had resigned from the party,” stated Scott.
“He was quoted as saying that he is an independent member, but he was advised that he is still a member of the People’s National Party,” he added.
McKenzie agreed with that assessment, but only hours earlier he had declared, “I have come home to the party that I have served for my entire adult life, the People’s National Party!”