Send the right man this time! - PNP supporters warn that St Elizabeth NE could go JLP because of bad leadership
Several People's National Party (PNP) supporters in St Elizabeth North East are adamant that the constituency, which has been solidly 'orange' over the years, could go 'green' because it has not had a good political representative since the time of Sydney Pagon.
They charge that the PNP stronghold, which has voted in line with the party's colour orange in 11 of 12 contested parliamentary elections, is now unstable, with the support for the party on the decline and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), with its green colour, is gaining traction.
PNP delegates in the constituency will today select either councillor for the Balaclava division Everton Fisher or Basil Waite to be their representative in the next general election, but it appears that neither has sparked a fire among several Comrades.
"Neither Mr Waite nor Mr Fisher can really help the people how they need to be helped. To tell you the truth, every minute dem change somebody and say is the right man. If is the right man, then how come dem change so often?" 56-year-old Cleveland Reynolds told The Sunday Gleaner in Santa Cruz last Wednesday.
"The man dem a town bring pure deportee and they can't really mesh with the people, and that is the problem," added Reynolds.
In the small community of Grosmond, some 10 minutes away from Santa Cruz, one resident, who claimed that he is a former PNP delegate, but who refused to give his name, complained that the constituency is being taken for a ride by the leadership of the PNP because of its loyalty over the years.
"A long time the people dem here say PNP, a nuh just now. But what the PNP a say to dem? Dem fling anybody down here and as you quint and fowl hatch, dem gone," he lamented, as he declared his support for Fisher.
According to the Grosmond resident, Fisher has his backing because, "he is from the old school".
He warned that if the PNP failed to find the right person to represent the constituency it runs the risk of losing to the JLP.
"Tell the God almighty truth ... you no see say nobody here no interested inna the PNP. We only vote fi dem because a dem we know.
"No group nuh really deh bout in my section again. The groups dem mash up. Everything mash up just like what the PNP dem a do a town. Tell dem fi continue waste time and see if Labour nuh mash dem up," he declared.
Political discontent has rocked the PNP's machinery in St Elizabeth North East since the lead-up to 2007 when then Member of Parliament Roger Clarke opted to move to Central Westmoreland, and Kern Spencer became his replacement.
Spencer comfortably won in 2007 by 2,138 votes but resigned following corruption charges related to the so-called Cuban light bulb scandal. He was eventually cleared of all charges after more than five years in the courts.
In 2010, Waite won the support of PNP delegates to replace Spencer, but was pushed aside by the PNP leadership prior to the 2011 election.
That opened the door for Raymond Pryce to be the party's standard-bearer, and he won by more than 4,000 votes. Disunity plagued Pryce's tenure leading to a challenge and eventual displacement by Evon Redman during the lead-up to the 2016 general election.
Redman won that election by just 1,524 votes over the JLP's Dr Saphire Longmore, with two independent candidates receiving 778 votes between them.
St Elizabeth NE, built by Pagon
The name Sydney Pagon is a household name in St Elizabeth North Eastern, as he became the first MP for the constituency in 1959 and won the seat again in 1962, 1967, 1972, 1976 and 1989. His only loss was in the 1980 polls, in which he was defeated by the JLP's William J.C. Hutchinson 9,106 votes to 6,460.
The JLP last held the seat in the uncontested 1983 election, when Hutchinson was returned unopposed as MP.
In 1993, the now deceased Roger Clarke proved a worthy successor to the legendary Pagon, as he defeated the JLP's Winston Lewis by a massive 4,460 majority.
In 1997, he polled even higher numbers to beat JLP newcomer Basil Perriel by 5,819 votes.
The seat was passed to Spencer in 2007, when he defeated the JLP's Corris Samuels 9,047 votes to 6,909. Pryce contested the seat in the 2011 election and defeated Samuels 9,566 votes to 5,498.
The electoral divisions in the constituency are Balaclava, Braes River, Santa Cruz and Siloah.