PRIORY, St Ann — Two St Ann councillors have weighed in on the call by residents of St Ann North Eastern for their fellow Labourite and Member of Parliament Marsha Smith to be ousted as the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) standard bearer in the constituency.
"The constituency is at the lowest it has been," Councillor Dallas Dickenson (JLP, St Ann's Bay Division) told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday after a second consecutive day of protest by angry constituents. "We want a new head of the constituency right now. I know our support is still here but I also know the people will not vote for Miss Smith coming into the next election."
Starting about 5:00 am on Wednesday, irate residents staged a fiery protest on the Priory main road. It was short-lived as the police had heard of the plan and swiftly moved to quell the disturbance.
A day earlier protestors had vociferously expressed concern that Smith has been ineffective as an MP. However, signs of trouble had emerged from as far back as February when they took out their frustration on T-shirts bearing her image and locked the entrance to her constituency office.
"The people are used to good and proper representation from the [late] Member of Parliament Mrs [Shahine] Robinson. She use to give them 24-hour service — service above self — and that has not happened since September 2020. The residents' greatest concern is that they have lost their trust in the current member of parliament because there is no representation at all," said Dickenson.
He said he has never, in the 20 years he has represented his division, seen such unrest.
Councillor Michael Belnavis (JLP, Ocho Rios Division) believes things have now gone too far.
"While there are issues, I feel the actions got out of hand. But what we are seeing is the actions of a minority as the people have expectations of great representation, [from] councillor and MP alike. So one has to deliver. The party is in good shape as the councillors are assisting the effort," he said.
"Marsha Smith should get a management team to include councillors and push forward in a structured, organised, responsive way and all will be well," Belnavis added.
At the same time, he blamed outside forces whom he accused of stoking the fire.
"I further understand that the fire at Priory main road is being manipulated and was actually started by a known PNP (People's National Party) activist," he told the Observer without offering any corroboration.
However, there is no denying that there is discord within the JLP camp in St Ann North Eastern.
On Wednesday, another political representative who asked not to be identified by name told the Observer that the only motive behind residents' protests has been their perception that they have been neglected by Smith.
"I don't support roadblocks and public unrest, but this is the way that the people can get their voices across because they know what they are feeling. They are not being represented in the way they should by their elected member of parliament," she said.
She also compared Smith's representation to that of the late, beloved Robinson and, too, found it lacking.
"They are also trying to belittle the people of North East St Ann about the issue of persons waiting for handouts when that is not the issue. It is just that the things that the Government makes available for the citizenry is not being executed in North East St Ann," she said.
"We don't have a JLP problem; we have a Marsha Smith problem. The people will not vote for her, so we want her to go because we don't plan to lose this seat," she added.
An MP cannot be removed unless voted out of office. That would require a by-election ahead of general polls.
Efforts to get a comment from MP Smith were unsuccessful.