Crawford vows not to make same mistake again
Damion Crawford will take one main lesson learnt from the hustings in St Andrew East Rural a shade over a decade ago as he chases a new dream on the road to landing in St Catherine North Western.
Crawford, now an Opposition senator, representing the People’s National Party, will step back into the ring of elective politics with the aim of delivering another knockout punch, reminiscent of that which saw him becoming undisputed champion of the seat in his first round of politics in 2011.
Next time around, when the general election becomes due in under two years from now, the dreadlocked populist will move up in weight to take on former senior police officer Newton Amos in the seat now held by another PNP businessman like himself, Hugh Graham, who has fallen out with the hierarchy of the PNP, but who has still not commented, publicly at any rate, on his political plans for the future, if any.
Crawford, among other things, a university lecturer and livestock farmer, will use a particular lesson from the St Andrew East Rural experience to skip around the ring in his freshly chosen geographical region.
“The main lesson that I have learnt, the main difference that maturity has created, is when I was a first-time MP in East Rural St Andrew, I basically thought that it was necessary to go to war with people who were not of good intention, instead of going to work with people who are of good intentions,” he told the Jamaica Observer in a midweek conversation, before recording his message for the launch of his alma mater Kingston College’s celebrations to mark its 100th year of existence.
“So there are some people who are not concerned about the development of the society, the nation, the general development of the constituency, and the movement of the people in a progressive way. I felt it was necessary to go to war with those persons, and wasted too much energy, when it would have been better to go to work with the persons who were of that ilk and those concerns, to work with the principals, the teachers, the churches, who wanted to see the development of their community’s infrastructure, instead of their personal gain and who would not have been demonstrating that education caa nyam and pickney don’t vote. I exerted too much effort, too much energy on the persons that I thought were against the greater good, instead of focusing on working closely with the people who were for the greater good,” Crawford admitted.
“I believe that will change this time around,” he said in reference to his latest assignment in St Catherine North Western.
Already, he has been introduced as the party’s choice at the level of the general election, and has met some of the main players involved in the PNP’s local level administration, across the divisions of Lluidas Vale, a stronghold; Linstead; and Ewarton. The next stop will be another favourable division for the party — Treadways.
“My focus is to meet all the people and to understand their desire and see the issues that exist and create plans that can address those issues. I have been receiving good support. In fact, most Jamaicans have accepted that I have a genuine desire, genuine intent for their improvement. A good example would have been how I put myself to the wheel during COVID and went to teach mathematics, without any fanfare, every Tuesday and Thursday.
“People, whether they support me or not, are of the belief that I am for their development, whether they agree with my opinions or not. I am received by even those who will not vote for me. The same thing happened in East Rural St Andrew and East Portland when I campaigned there,” he said.
But what of his relationship with Graham, and is there likely to be any tension going into a campaign?
“I have been in touch with Hugh Graham and I have a close relationship with him. I don’t know what are the issues in totality that happened, but those issues are not what I would take on to hurt my relationship with Hugh Graham. In the initial period when he was having some concerns, I was even in the public suggesting that his contribution to the society was underestimated, as a person who has made a good living from legitimate methods and has invested into assets that are exciting to us as translating into nice things like having a house, car and nice clothes. We want those counter conversations, those anti-scamming conversations from people who have assets that they desire and admire.
“Hugh was a valuable asset to the party and to the politics. I met with him, had conversations with him, and I cleared the path that the seat was available in his opinion, and then I applied. We still retain a good relationship,” Crawford said, adding that while Graham has not openly pledged to support his campaign, as that discussion has not been had yet, he would presume that with the personal friendship and the party that he supports, “when the roll is called up yonder he will be there. I am just trying to learn the differences that were created and understand how to navigate those waters, but I haven’t asked for his commitment as yet”, Crawford continued.
Emphasising that the life of a politician is not an easy one, Crawford said that from his preliminary analysis of the constituency, water distribution seems to be the most pressing issue.
Poor roads across the island, too, have not spared St Catherine North Western, and he contends that the building of the highway has resulted in the creation of inefficiencies along some of the roads in the interior.
Unlike St Andrew East Rural and Portland Eastern, where he was asked by the party to make himself available as a candidate, St Catherine North Western was chosen by him when he was given the option of suggesting which seat he would like to contest. He told the Sunday Observer why.
“This is the first time I am selecting a constituency. In east rural, the party asked me at [the] last minute to enter, because it was young people time with Andrew Holness’s ascension; and in east Portland, the party asked me to run because the MP was murdered. So, for the first time in my career in politics, which started in 2017, this is the first time that I have been asked to choose a seat that I would like.”
He said that both times before he was behind in the polls — by seven points in St Andrew East Rural, and 11 points in Portland Eastern. He did not contest the St Andrew seat in the 2016 General Election.
“Nobody thought I would win in east rural St Andrew, and being 11 points behind in east Portland and to lose by one percentage point was something. No PNP man achieved more votes in east rural; and I got the most votes in east Portland by a PNP candidate — 9,670. In 2020 [general election] the party got less than 6,000 votes. It’s necessary to mash down the proposition that I am not a strong candidate because I lost one election — east Portland. In-between that, I have won many an election from the university level, many within the party, from president of the youth arm by landslide — the first vice-president without a constituency since PJ Patterson, and also got the highest number of votes. So that has been a propaganda that has taken root and because we lost Portland, running against an entire Government — and the only time a Government has lost a by-election in this country’s history, that was Shahine Robinson — the funds that the Government spent, the roads that they fixed, the water projects that they were implementing while we were campaigning. How do you convince a family that just received PATH benefits from the Ministry of Labour to vote for you? It’s a difficult outcome, but I have been more successful in my campaign activities than any other PNP candidate in the two seats that I have won, and if I can do this one, I think I will be victorious,” Crawford said.
He is looking forward to fulfilling major plans, should he be victorious.
“It is a constituency that has fair employment opportunities through bauxite, sugar, but also there is a spirit of entrepreneurship that we can tap into. Land for farming is one of the options; there is a HEART centre there as an option for training, and there is a type of person there that would lead to a good catchment of volunteers, especially for the one (university/college) degree per household that I have always been committed to.
“Many teachers are in the constituency, doctors too … there is a high potential for the types of volunteers that we want to transform the society and there are some good schools sprinkled across the constituency. I saw one in particular which I think could be a centre of excellence for early childhood education and I am researching that.
“St Catherine North West is not as devilish a terrain as east rural St Andrew and its size was a major issue. So, for example, when there is heavy rain, there would be landslides in the hills and flooding in Kintyre, and there may be storm surges on the flat, like Harbour View.
“We have been showing some of our achievements in east rural St Andrew, like Kintyre Bridge we put it in. We built the first road in Cottage Hill, which was a track before. and we improved education outcomes for schools at Park in Bayshore, among other achievements.
“One of the great assets of North West is it proximity to many areas because of the highway, and I have discussed with some hotels the probability of training people from north west, as there have been worker shortage in some hotels,” Crawford said.