Patricia Duncan Sutherland is the 'Real Deal'Monday, July 27, 2020
By Kimone Francis
PATRICIA Duncan Sutherland does not believe her boycott of the March 2 by-election in Clarendon South Eastern will in any way ruin her chance at political office when Jamaicans go to the polls in the near future.
In fact, the People's National Party (PNP) candidate is backing herself to seal the deal this time round, following a failed attempt in 2016 to defeat then incumbent Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Member of Parliament Rudyard Spencer in that parliamentary election.
“I'm going on the slogan 'The Real Deal' and I'm saying the real deal because I'm here; I'm committed. It's not a fly by night kind of situation. It's one where you can count on me and I've been working with the people and I'm working in practical ways with the people,” Duncan Sutherland told the Jamaica Observer during an interview at her constituency office in Mineral Heights two Wednesdays ago.
She is set to contest the seat against a freshly installed Pearnel Charles Jr, who won the by-election in a virtual one-man race to become Member of Parliament. His only opponent was Independent Candidate Dereck Lambert, who in 2011 contested the seat for the PNP.
The by-election, which racked up $30 million in Government spending, followed Spencer's sudden resignation.
Six years in, Duncan Sutherland and the PNP said the election was unnecessary and was a waste of taxpayers' money and so opted not to participate.
The decision, she said, has not caused her to lose any sleep.
“I'm going to tell you straight up, no. I don't regret it. Thirty million dollars is the cost of providing water for the Salt River community and we used $30 million to put in an interim MP because I will say it's interim. Now in terms of my chances, I'm very clear, it did not impact my chances. They were only able to get just over 6,000 votes with all of the money that was spent and a lot of money was spent,” the PNP standard-bearer argued.
“I think the people are ready for a change; a real change, not an interim change. I think they are ready for genuine leadership. They are ready for committed leadership. They are ready for honest leadership and I think that they are ready for me,” the daughter of veteran PNP politician Dr D K Duncan declared.
Identifying the ills of the depressed constituency, Duncan Sutherland, a businesswoman, said poverty and the absence of earning opportunities are two of the major issues.
This, she said, was exacerbated by the closure of the Monymusk Sugar Factory and the general decline of sugar over the past 10 to 15 years.
“Poverty is significant in this space and then that poverty is compounded by the fact that we have a significant number of underperforming primary schools. If you underperform at the primary level then you going to underperform at the high school level and then it's going to be a knock-off effect in terms of your ability to create that earning opportunity for yourself,” she said.
And while noting that poor infrastructure, such as road and street lighting, remain of concern, Duncan Sutherland said that those issues are par for the course and require constant lobbying by the political representative.
“So it's not the big thing. It's not the thing that will make the real difference to the lives of the people. It will make it a little more comfortable but the big difference is how are our people going to earn and it's the big thing that's going to make a difference to the younger people in South East Clarendon,” the former Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB) executive director for business operations said.
She said as Member of Parliament, she would be seeking to make use of the lands largely available across the constituency for agricultural purposes. That, she said, would be a direct move to establishing the constituency as the country's second 'breadbasket' area.
The goal, she shared, is to put 5,000 acres of agricultural land into production and, by extension, into the hands of constituents with one to five-acre farms. This, she said, will approximate to 1,000 farms. The businesses will be pushed through a marketing company and supported by students who have completed skills training in high-tech farming.
In the same breath, she told the Observer that she had been facilitating workshops with the youth across the constituency to establish ways in which they could start their own businesses.
“Once I become MP, the intention is for that to become a bigger and a more established programme in a more continuous way by helping them to connect to capital and into a digital space,” said Duncan Sutherland.
“...Everywhere you walk the youth them pon the corner a roll a likkle spliff, drink them special and feel worthless. Them don't feel good about themselves because they are not feeling productive,” she added.
At the primary level, she said as caretaker she has established a partnership with the Quality Education Circle over the past four years, for a camp focusing on “language acquisition” in the 13 schools in the constituency.
She said the move is a direct attempt to impact the test results at different levels.
“We looked at the problem of language. Our children come to school with their first language as Patois, our language, a beautiful language. But if you start speaking to them in English, immediately, we lose them. So we have to help them with language acquisition and to do the code-switching so that they can be truly bilingual,” she shared.
She also said sports and music development is another area she intends to focus on if elected as Member of Parliament.
“Music is a big part of what we want to put in schools. You put the music in schools and you get some studios set up in the constituency then we know that we can make studios available to those who are already out of schools and might have that ability and how to hone that ability. So for me, that's a great opportunity,” she declared.
For sports, she said, it is her intention to facilitate the redevelopment of football fields at the community level as well as netball courts.
Acknowledging that it is pricey to do “great turfs”, the caretaker said constituents are not requiring state-of-the-art fields for recreation. So the plan, she said, is to seek funding from the Social Development Fund.
“I chose South East Clarendon because I saw it as an opportunity to work with a community that has quite a mixture of the socio-economic classes in Jamaica and so we could develop a blueprint of how we could cause real difference in Jamaica,” said Duncan Sutherland.
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