Kern considering chairmanship of PNP's Region FiveThursday, August 12, 2021
BY GARFIELD MYERS
SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Former Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Eastern Kern Spencer says he is giving thought but is yet to make up his mind regarding calls for him to contest for chairmanship of the Opposition People's National Party's (PNP) Region Five.
Hopeton McCatty, a member of the Region Five Seceretriat dating back to the late 1980s, currently chairs Region Five, which comprises Manchester and St Elizabeth.
“To tell you the truth, I have been getting calls from left, right, and centre to contest, but I have to take time to consider,” Spencer told the Jamaica Observer. “I am giving myself the next couple of days to [consult and have dialogue] before coming to a determination,” he said.
But, when contacted, McCatty said that as far as he is concerned there is an internal campaign that has started to woo delegates in Region Five and he is “in it to win it [in the best interest] of the People's National Party”.
Any such contest would involve a poll of PNP delegates in Region Five ahead of next month's annual conference of the party.
Spencer, who told the Observer he has been assigned as St Elizabeth's parish coordinator for the PNP over the “past couple of months”, said that party unity will be a primary consideration. “Any decision I make will be guided by the need to ensure unity,” said Spencer.
Disunity has plagued the PNP in recent years. Last month the resignation of vice-presidents Wykeham McNeill, Mikael Phillips, Damion Crawford, and Chairman Phillip Paulwell was blamed on divisions linked to last November's internal delegates' poll for presidency of the party. Back then Mark Golding triumphed over Lisa Hanna to become PNP president and Opposition leader. Golding succeeded Dr Peter Phillips, who had himself survived a challenge from Peter Bunting in 2019.
Spencer reiterated that his “main focus right now is to play my part in basic organisation of the party and in ensuring unity… without that we don't have a party”. Any decision to take a “leadership position” would be dependent on the extent to which those principles of organisation and unity would be at play, Spencer said.
According to McCatty, who has led the PNP's Region Five since 2018, he believed he had a “responsibility” to make sure that steady hands are in charge of Region Five so that there is smooth constituency organisation.
“We are going through a transition of leadership in six of eight constituencies. That transition of constituency leadership has to be guided by regional leadership that understands what needs to be done and will lead with responsibility, honesty, and integrity,” said McCatty.
“My campaign is off and running… I have gotten word that the campaign is on [and] I am not backing out. I am in it to win it on behalf of the People's National Party,” he said.
“I am confident that I have the delegate support to win it,” added McCatty.
The PNP's Region Five suffered a massive body blow in last September's parliamentary election, losing seven of the eight seats in St Elizabeth and Manchester. Only Manchester North Western represented by Mikael Phillips stood firm for the PNP as the JLP swept to a 49-14 majority across the country.
In June, Spencer had appeared to indicate to the Sunday Observer an interest in returning to representational politics in St Elizabeth North Eastern. But he made clear yesterday that this was not a consideration for him at this point, whether in St Elizabeth or anywhere else. “At this stage I have no interest in representational politics,” said Spencer, who runs thriving businesses in communications and gaming.
Once a bright rising star in the PNP, Spencer was elected Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Eastern in 2007. But corruption charges related to the so-called Cuban light bulb scandal put paid to his political career at that time. Spencer was eventually cleared of all charges in 2014.