(Graphic: Rorie Atkinson)
Former MP Spencer eyes St Elizabeth seat for Opposition PNP

He is heading back into the political ring.

Kern Omar Spencer, now a seasoned businessman who turns 47 exactly a week from now, is lacing up his boots for a return to elective politics, after spending a decade outside of Gordon House, home of the nation's Parliament.

Spencer, the former Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Eastern, left the political scene in 2011 when his reign as MP ended amid a bout of controversy after he was charged in relation to the Cuban light bulb matter following an investigation by the auditor general who found discrepancies amounting to a shortfall in the programme valued at $92 million.

At the time, Spencer was minister of state in the Ministry of Mining and Energy.

He was charged with fraud in 2008, a year after he was elected MP, along with two others Rodney Chin and Colleen Wright. However, like Wright, Spencer was freed in 2014 of the seven counts at trial, and turned his back on elective politics, opting to grow his businesses and set himself on a foundation for financial success.

The charges against Chin were earlier dropped and he had agreed to give evidence for the Crown.

Spencer, who was appointed a senator and parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of National Security by Prime Minister PJ Patterson in 2005 at age 28, slowly built up his main business Super K Studios, a television production company. Super K Studios has featured in the showcasing of several screen programmes, one of which BoJ ( Best of Jamaica) TV has earned the reputation as a leading channel on cable. His operations also have considerable clout on YouTube.

Separately, Spencer acquired the gaming business of three Supreme Ventures retail outlets from his deceased father at Balaclava, Siloah, and Maggotty in St Elizabeth North Eastern, and has not only improved their physical state, but has added 10 more all now part of Spencer's Ventures, the one-year-old parent company which employs 75 people. He has even instituted a 'Village Cafe' concept in three of the locations in wider St Elizabeth Luana, George's Valley, and Junction.

But over the last 10 years a hollow space existed in his gut for representational politics, driven largely, he said, by his love for people. He has now gone into the blocks, waiting for the sound of the starter's gun to allow him to run that political race that will see him representing his favourite people again. And the road seems even bereft of some of the potholes that normally go with the turf, as the man whom it is felt could stand in his way Basil Waite who contested the seat for the PNP in the September 2020 General Election will likely walk away from elective politics, if not politics overall soon, Jamaica Observer sources have said.

Like Waite, Spencer is a Munro College old boy and graduate of The University of the West Indies where he earned first and second degrees in management and international relations. He said he would relish the challenge should the people continue to insist that it is he whom they want to represent them as the elected official.

And amid his money-making endeavours, he did not hide his passion for politics:

“It's hard to ignore the suffering. I don't know if persons of positions really understand what is happening on the ground. There is real suffering. I live in Santa Cruz and I am very accessible, so persons are always pulling up at my gate, walking to my gate, taking a taxi and walk down the road. The other day an old lady came and she was crying, saying, 'Mr Spencer, a hungry' and I had to assist her,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

“The bulk of my business is located in North East St Elizabeth, so people still do not separate my private business role from my being a politician. They will say, 'Mr Spencer, you are still my MP; is you did send me on the farm work programme and so on', so I have always tried to assist as much as I can.

“I have a genuine love for people and there is a genuine connection with people. Not because I am involved in business, it has been hard not to be with the people all the time. That's where I get most comfort from, just assisting people and they are always telling you thanks,” Spencer said.

“It's no secret that there is a love affair between the people of North East and myself. MP after MP will come, and when it's campaign time they will say, 'Bwoy, the people in so and so say if you don't come and talk to them they will not come out and vote'.

“That has been the case for over a decade. I have had people say to me 'Mr Spencer, from you leave the place we nuh vote again.' The people still support me. Some candidates will say to me they have to spend so much money when they campaign in an area, but when I go in an area the people give me things. When I go in a place like Brae's River, for example, like Windsor, Thornton, I will be like in a bar and see two crates of drinks come throw down and a man point and say, 'That's for you, Mr Spencer'.

“So when some people tell me how much millions they spend in campaigns I tell them I don't have that experience. People are always giving me things because of that love. The people have said they were robbed of their heart's desire. I get that every day from the people. There is an incomplete mission that needs to be completed,” Spencer told the Sunday Observer.

“I will never say no to the people, especially the people of St Elizabeth and in particular, North East St Elizabeth. When enemies were plenty and friends were few, it was those people who helped me. If it wasn't for those people I probably would not be here today. At the end of the day it will be hard to say no to the people,” Spencer stated.

As for the stigma of the Cuban light bulb scenario, Spencer maintained his innocence, pointing to being cleared not only by the court, but the PNP's Internal Commission.

As he was called out in Parliament by then Energy Minister Clive Mullings, a lawyer who suggested that fraud was involved, Spencer broke down in tears, for as he put it, he knew that what was being said about him was not true, he told the Sunday Observer.

“I was very hurt with how the entire thing went down, some of the wrong information that was out there up to today. When I broke down and cried it was because I wanted from that stage to have told my side of the story. It was hurtful when you heard some of the things that were said and you know in your heart that they were not true.

“It fleshed out for me who were my real friends. My real friends stood around me and the ones who weren't, they disappeared.

“I engulfed myself in work at the time, because I didn't want people to think that Kern failed. I had responsibility at the time which I am reaping success from now. It made me strong, I built up a determination that failure was not an option. I was not stressed out, because I knew the truth, and from the day I presented my side to the lawyers, they said to me, 'Kern, if what you are saying is true, then they have no case against you. Just sit and bear it out.' So for me it was like a soap opera after a while,” he said.

He was represented at trial by attorneys-at-law KD Knight and Deborah Martin.

Now stating that he has grown wiser, Spencer said that should he be elected MP again he would have one item among his priorities for the people.

“I would want to see as my role, concentrating on the economic liberation and independence of the people. I feel that every youngster should have a YouTube channel. That is one of my main areas of revenue. There is an excitement about the Jamaican content. A lot of young people are doing it, but more should follow.

“There are a lot of micro business ideas out there from which money can be made without a lot of capital layout because of the technology that now exists,” he insisted.

Education, too, he maintained, is a must.

“I would also encourage every young person to sharpen up on education because, if I never completed my education before I would be dead. After I got my second degree, and the system failed me I was able to draw back on my educational qualifications.

“So before you venture into political life, try to ensure that you are independent and have a level of financial stability,” he said.

Asked to speak on Spencer's second coming, PNP President Mark Golding offered a “No comment at this time”.

Former member of Parliament Kern Spencer onthe job at his Spencer's Ventures organisation.
Spencer relaxes at one of his Village Cafe outlets, part of his broader Supreme Ventures gamingbusiness.
Spencer videotaping a scene for BoJ Television
Kern Spencer sitting as a Member of Parliament.
BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobnserver.com

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