Disgruntled Fisher walks as minority leader in St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation
Former Black River mayor says he is frustrated by PNP disunityThursday, August 26, 2021
BY GARFIELD MYERS
SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Former mayor of Black River Everton Fisher says he has resigned as minority leader in the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation out of frustration at “continuing disunity” in the Opposition People's National Party (PNP).
Fisher, PNP councillor for the Balaclava Division of the St Elizabeth North Eastern constituency, says he tendered his resignation to Opposition leader and PNP President Mark Golding last week.
He says he will be “consulting” with Comrades in the Balaclava Division to determine whether he should again offer himself to represent them in the next local government elections. Those elections are widely expected after there is substantial ease in the current COVID-19 case surge.
“Basically, I believe the time has come when every Comrade should be holding hands together in order to be a viable alternative” to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), said Fisher. He supported Golding in last November's divisive contest for leadership of the PNP against former Miss World and St Ann South Eastern Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna.
However, Fisher, who led the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation as chairman and mayor of Black River from 2012 to 2016, said he had seen no evidence of a coming together since that contest.
“I supported Mark against Lisa because I thought, and probably still believe, he has the best chance of winning over uncommitted voters, which is needed to provide the PNP with a win [in the next parliamentary elections],” Fisher said.
But, he said, he had not got the “impression” that support was being built on the ground. Instead, he said, a number of divisive steps initiated by those “seeking to serve their own ends” were undermining attempts at unity.
When pressed, Fisher conceded that he was particularly disturbed by recent happenings in St Elizabeth North Eastern with the selection of a new executive following the exit of Basil Waite as constituency chairman. Waite, who had defeated Fisher in a delegates' selection to earn the right to represent the PNP in last September's election following the departure of one-term Member of Parliament (MP) Evon Redman, has apparently walked away from politics after his shock loss to the JLP's Delroy Slowley. The PNP was losing the St Elizabeth North Eastern seat for the first time since 1980.
In a selection meeting in Santa Cruz on August 14, councillor for the Braes River Division Donovan Pagon — who has indicated his intention to walk away from competitive politics come the local government elections — was selected as “interim” constituency chairman for St Elizabeth North Eastern. More significantly, former Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Eastern Kern Spencer was selected as constituency secretary.
It later emerged that the delegates' conference was tinged with vexation and heat, as some Comrades, primarily those from Fisher's Balaclava Division, disputed how it was conducted. Fisher and others are said to have walked out of the meeting before its conclusion.
Spencer, who has been out of the political limelight for more than a decade after facing corruption charges of which he was eventually cleared in 2014, is also expected to challenge for chairmanship of the PNP's Region Five which comprises Manchester and St Elizabeth. Hopeton McCatty, a decades-long member of the Region Five secretariat, has been chairman since 2018.
A delegates' selection to decide chairmanship of the region was set for last Sunday but had to be postponed indefinitely because of a three-day COVID-19-related no-movement day, which ended yesterday.
Fisher never mentioned Spencer by name during his telephone interview with the Jamaica Observer, but influential PNP voices in St Elizabeth North Eastern have expressed strong reservations at what they see as Spencer's untimely return to frontline politics.
“I am very disappointed that the PNP would even be looking at Kern,” one individual, who declined to be identified, told the Observer last week.
But a combative Spencer, who has consistently insisted he was innocent of all charges connected to the so-called Cuban light bulb scandal for which he was arrested and charged in 2008, says he has every right to serve in the effort to “rebuild unity” and to help restore St Elizabeth North Eastern to the PNP.
“I subjected myself to the court of the land… my lawyers presented a no-case submission and in the end the judge said, 'Mr Spencer, you are free to go'… I didn't even have to take the stand,” Spencer said.
The former MP said the latest animosity towards him is motivated by disappointment among his opponents at the way the recent selection meeting in Santa Cruz ended.
“If they had got the results that they wanted, that they came there for, would they be saying the things they are saying now?” he asked.
Spencer, who recently told this newspaper that he has no interest, “at this time”, in putting himself forward as a candidate for St Elizabeth North Eastern or any other constituency, insisted that the selection meeting in Santa Cruz was conducted properly.
“It was done according to the book and, bear in mind, there was no actual election, persons were nominated to specific positions and there were no opposing nominations,” he said.
Fisher told the Observer that he believed that to build party unity, Golding should be “extending himself” much more than is now the case, to embrace those who had opposed him.
He cited examples of former PNP presidents and prime ministers, PJ Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller, who went beyond the “call of duty” to reach out and include in their Cabinet even those who had opposed them.
“Right now there are too many pit bulls on both sides [of the PNP's internal divide] who still want blood,” said Fisher.
“Mark has to go the extra mile… to cool down everyone and bring a sense of unity, [because] no one side, neither 'Risers' nor 'One PNP' can win election by themselves,” Fisher said.