WATCH: Trouble in PNP's Westmoreland Western camp
Councillor claims personal vendetta behind push to oust himThursday, January 06, 2022
BY DAINA DAVY
GRANGE, HILL, Westmoreland — There is fierce infighting within the Opposition People's National Party's (PNP) Westmoreland Western camp with Councillor for the Grange Hill division, Lawton 'Jimmy' McKenzie, claiming an ongoing push to have him replaced ahead of the local government election is linked to tension between himself and the party's vice president and parish manager for the polls, Ian Hayles.
“Ian Hayles asked me to support him as a candidate for the Member of Parliament for Western Westmoreland and I rejected and I gave him my reasons for doing so. Him mash up the region and his constituency and is now coming to mash up Grange Hill division. He does not know the party's constitution,” said a furious McKenzie.
He added that he will not be working with Hayles in the future.
“Ian Hayles does not have the credibility to be a VP of my party and I am calling the party executives and the party leader to have him removed immediately because enough is enough,” he ranted.
He hinted that he may run independently, though he has no issue with the party itself.
“I am the only veteran for the PNP left in the parish and I have served my people and my party from home and abroad. Right now, my duty is to continue to serve my people to the end of my term. When the elections are called, I will make my decision,” McKenzie told OBSERVER ONLINE Thursday morning.
The evening before, his disgruntled supporters stormed out of a meeting Hayles called at the Grange Hill High School. This after Hayles told the group that McKenzie would not be the party's candidate for the upcoming election due to the findings of a series of internal polls done last week.
Addressing the disgruntled supporters who wanted McKenzie to vie for the seat, Hayles said it was important for the party to choose a candidate who can retain the division.
“I think everyone that came out here has one thing in common, they want the PNP to win. But the question that is important is, 'Which candidate is viable for the PNP to retain the Grange Hill division?' And that is a question we will answer over the next couple of weeks,” he said.
He stressed that, contrary to rumours circulating before the meeting, McKenzie is still the sitting councillor, a position he has held for the last four consecutive terms.
“I want to thank Councillor McKenzie for his stewardship in terms of representing the people of Grange Hill but some glaring factors came up in the data,” Hayles told OBSERVER ONLINE.
“As a party we will sit and address the data and we will make corrective changes in terms of ensuring that we put the best candidate forward,” he added.
However, some party members have threatened to withdraw their support for the PNP if McKenzie is not on the ticket whenever the local government elections — constitutionally due this February unless delayed yet again — are called.
George Godfrey, who has supported the party for over 20 years, was among the delegates who made it clear they were opposed to the move to have McKenzie replaced.
“This is a great disrespect towards a councillor who has done the most work for the party. A him put food pon we table. And if we cyaah get Jimmy, then we are going to be withholding our support from the party. JLP a guh get the seat if we nuh get the candidate weh we want. No Jimmy, no vote,” an upset Godfrey said.
Marilin Williams, another long-time supporter of the party expressed similar sentiments.
“Mi hurt and feel very bad about this because this councillor is a hard worker. Mi woulda prefer him run and lose than weh dem a do now and a remove him. If Jimmy fi guh run independent, him have all a we vote,” Williams said.
However, Hayles remains adamant that the decision taken was a necessary one for the advancement of the party.
The PNP has been preparing for local polls for months, despite Prime Minister Andrew Holness's repeated utterances that he does not intend to call the elections any time soon. The elections were postponed in 2021 as the country grappled with the novel coronavirus.