Trelawny Northern in limbo
PNP ponders best representative for constituency
If current sentiment among People’s National Party (PNP) diehard supporters in Trelawny Northern is anything to go by, communication specialist, business owner and university lecturer Suzette Brown could be a shoo-in as the party’s new standard-...
If current sentiment among People’s National Party (PNP) diehard supporters in Trelawny Northern is anything to go by, communication specialist, business owner and university lecturer Suzette Brown could be a shoo-in as the party’s new standard-bearer for the constituency.
Brown, a former councillor of the Montego Bay Southern division, and Fabian Davis, the caretaker for the Duncans division, have already made formal applications to succeed Victor Wright, who lost to political neophyte Tova Hamilton in the 2020 polls, ending 31 years of PNP dominance in the constituency. Wright subsequently resigned.
Former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) senator Dennis Meadows is also among possible contenders, with the constituency abuzz since he applied to join the PNP earlier this year after quitting the JLP.
Donovan Haughton, PNP caretaker for the Wakefield division, said that party supporters were informed of the aspirants’ interest at a recent constituency conference, but stressed that the present focus of the PNP is to sweep the five divisions when the local government elections are called.
“The public has mentioned other names, but the party received two letters of intent so far,” he told The Sunday Gleaner, declining to state who he would like to see become the standard-bearer. “At the moment, I will refrain from sharing my opinion, but on that day, I will stand with whoever the party chooses.”
Pressed for his views on Davis’ expression of interest, Haughton said, “Politics is of glorious uncertainties, so I am going to leave it to the democratic process to choose who they wish to lead the constituency.”
However, PNP hardliner Ovan Williams of the Falmouth division has no qualms about declaring his preference.
“Suzette Brown is the best choice of all the names doing the rounds and she has my full support,” he said. “Both PNP and JLP MPs come here and don’t do anything. Most of what we achieved came through Desmond Leakey,” he said, referencing a former PNP MP. “People still talk about him and I see Suzette Brown in that vein.”
A district constable, who gave his name as Denzil, expects Brown to be given the nod.
“We are falling behind in the constituency because leadership has been weak for several terms. You have to go all the way back to Desmond Leakey’s performance in the 1970s, and I have this sneaky feeling that Brown will give a good account of herself,” he said as The Sunday Gleaner visited Trelawny Northern last week.
If selected, Brown could set up a sizzling contest in the next election, which is constitutionally due in 2025, between two daughters of the soil who have excelled in their careers of choice, if Hamilton also decides to defend her seat.
THREE TIMES UNLUCKY
Some party supporters believe Meadows, who failed in three previous bids to win the seat on a JLP ticket, could taste victory this time around and even pull some votes from the JLP.
Meadows lost to the PNP’s Patrick Harris in 2007, Patrick Atkinson in 2011 and Wright in 2016.
In the 2016 face-off, Meadows polled 9,162 votes to Victor Wright’s 9,611, losing by 449 votes, with roughly 52.13 per cent of the 36,195 registered voters casting ballots. Observers believe his political work paved the way for Tova Hamilton to wrest the constituency from Wright in 2020.
“It is natural that some may mention my name because of the work I have done in the constituency over the years, but my focus is to play my part to help the party win the next local government elections. Nothing else,” said Meadows, who is awaiting his application for PNP membership to be ratified by the party.
JLP supporters in Wakefield, Duncans and Duanvale are divided on Hamilton’s performance over the past two years, but are of two minds on supporting Meadows on a PNP ticket.
“I don’t want any more JLP turncoats as our MP,” Ovan Williams said, noting that he was not impressed with Atkinson.
Some are willing to listen to Brown’s vision for the constituency.
“What I look for from an MP is a vision to effect change, and where things are not working out, there must be effective communication,” said Calvin Bennett, a resident in Bounty Hall. “I am not against the current MP, but she does not engage the people if you are not a familiar face, but I would expect Suzette Brown as a communications expert to give more of herself to the people.”
Prior to the 2020 election, Hamilton, an attorney-at-law, told this newspaper that she had an all-inclusive approach to leadership and blasted Wright for being inaccessible.
“He has been member of parliament for four and a half years and there are communities that I go to that still don’t know him. They have never interacted with him, they don’t know what his vision is for the space,” she said then. “I should be the one with that problem because I am just coming [into politics], but I do not expect that from someone who is supposed to be providing service to people because it’s all about service.”
Last week when The Sunday Gleaner called the number provided by the MP on her social media page, a male who identified himself as her personal assistant requested details of the purpose of the call and promised to contact her.
He later called back with more questions, reportedly from her, but up to press time, The Sunday Gleaner was yet to speak directly to Hamilton.
TIME FOR NEW LEADER
“It’s nearly two years now, but if I should see the MP on the road, I would not know her. I have never met her and I am not sure what she looks like,” Leakey, who served as Trelawny Northern MP from 1972 to 1980 and again from 1989 to 1997, told The Sunday Gleaner last week.
“I don’t see much happening, but an ideal candidate for North Trelawny must be one who seeks to understand the constituents and is familiar with the issues affecting their development, and is prepared to collectively confront the problem through effective communication,” said the former government minister.
Prior to her victory at the 2020 polls, Hamilton said that her data suggested that 78.9 per cent of the constituents were calling for roads.
“Where there is no access, there is no development, you have to create access to communities for things to happen in them and so that is a top priority,” she said then.
“We can then filter into the other issues such as community engagement. We have issues with water; can you imagine that in 2020 there are communities that have never had potable water?
“So …. there are a number of things that we will have to address, but one thing we must identify is that we cannot do it all at once and in one term, because we have 31 years of neglect to resolve and so we start step by step in consultation with the people, then we can achieve great things.
“I have told the people that they can look at me as their investment,” she added. “Invest in me and I will reap returns for you, because I am fully aware of what the needs are in the constituency, all we have to do is to execute.”
Leakey believes the PNP lost the seat in the 2020 election because the JLP made inroads in the Falmouth division, which the party had held from the 1940s, and the advantage that was expected from the adjustment of the boundary with Trelawny Southern was not realised.
“The adjustment meant that about 700 favour votes moved to South Trelawny – the entire Jackson Town and parts of Brampton – but that did not help us,” Leakey said.
But the veteran politician, who served as health minister between 1993 and 1995, believes that it is time that Trelawny Northern select a new leader. When pressed as to who he would be supporting, he said he would make that revelation when the time is right.
During Leakey’s tenure, several schools were constructed in the parish, including Cedric Titus High in Clark’s Town and the Martha Brae-based William Knibb High Memorial School. Muschett High School in Wakefield was also upgraded from a junior high school.
Several housing developments were also completed and the sugar cane industry was booming, with Long Pond and Hampden sugar estates offering employment to hundreds of constituents. Commerce was also high in the parish capital of Falmouth, which has the richest collection of Georgian architecture in the Western Hemisphere.
Falmouth now boasts one of the most modern ports of entry in the region, constructed in 2011 in a partnership arrangement between Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the Port Authority of Jamaica.