Member of Parliament for St Thomas Western James Robertson has expressed confidence that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will be victorious in the April 27 by-election called for the Yallahs Division in the constituency.
Robertson was speaking to members of the media at the Yallahs Baptist Church Hall in St Thomas, where nomination day activities took place last Tuesday.
Vice chairman of the division for the governing JLP’s John Lee will run against the Opposition People’s National Party’s (PNP) Constantine Bogle, a former councillor in the division.
“Mr John Lee is a son of Yallahs. He has been through the institutions here. He is so well known that when he is finished walking the districts on the 27th you’re going to see a Jamaica Labour Party victory. A victory for Mr Lee and a victory for the future of St Thomas,” Robertson said.
Lee replaces former councillor Dean Jones who was disqualified to sit in the position following a ruling by the Supreme Court. This created the vacancy in the division.
According to the High Court, Jones’ disqualification was on the grounds that, at the time of the November 2016 Local Government Elections, he was employed by the Government.
Last Tuesday, Robertson defended Jones, noting that he had delivered on several projects he had set out to accomplish in the division.
“Let’s get it clear. The Chief Justice Bryan Sykes indicated clearly that Mr Jones was eligible to run. Everything states that clearly. Mr Jones was cleared to run. In life, in politics the world over, the individuals who put themselves to run go through a lot. Mr Jones was voted the best performing first year councillor. Mr Jones has done such a good job as councillor in Yallahs that in one year what he has done with the State resources put at his disposal is unmatched by what the individual who is coming forward from the other side did with five times the amount over four years. So Mr Jones would have been a very strong candidate, but at this time he had things to think about, things to look for and things to do. It’s not how long you serve; it’s about how good and well you serve,” Robertson said.
And according to him, the party is pleased with its selection of Lee as the candidate. He noted that Lee is bringing fresh ideas to the division that will further its development.
“For a number of reasons we are happy. We have nominated a young man bred and grown in Yallahs. He is a young man whom the people know. Walking with him to nomination here I was proud to be around him. You had young people calling out to him. Let us understand the apathy that exists. The low voter turnout that we have been seeing can only be countered by two things, good political service and decency in our democracy and its processes and when we find young men like this welcomed to join the fold.
“I can say to you, put it in any language this is a fresh young man. We are coming with the youth for the future and service to the east. At this time when the east is seeing unprecedented levels of investment in highways and byways, a new town centre, job opportunities, it is important that we come forward with somebody and individuals that can represent that and can signal to the future of Jamaica and the east where the Jamaica Labour Party stands,” Robertson stated.
Following his nomination, Lee told the Jamaica Observer North & East that he plans to “continue the work” of Jones.
“It’s already there. Victory is already there. You can feel it in the atmosphere. Coming in at the moment now you know Mr Dean Jones has left stuff on the table, so it’s to tidy up and get things going forward. The blueprint is already there,” he said, adding that Jones’ work is visible to residents.
Robertson then added that Jones was able to get a lot of patching work done, even as the parish grapples with bad roads.
“He has presided over the patching of the roads off the main. If you notice for the first time in recent times we have had patching projects that are not only on the main. As Member of Parliament for a long time I have struggled with the roads. What we are able to do now, because the Government is fixing from Harbour View to Morant Bay to Port Antonio and from Morant Bay to Cedar Valley, what that has given us the opportunity to do is to do works off the main with the councillors, for me to work with the parish council in a joined up government way.
“The farm roads that we have begun to do is unprecedented in the Yallahs area. One hundred and ninety-five million dollars is being spent and more. I can say that the people are excited. Nobody can say that this is election work. There was no court date when this work was started, when contractors were nominated and the process started. This Desmond McKenzie can be proud of; this [Prime Minister] Andrew Holness can be proud of. This, the residents of the east can be proud of,” he said.
In the meantime, McKenzie, the minister of local government and community development said that Lee is a welcome addition to the JLP team.
“I think the choice is a good one. Here’s an individual who is well known in the parish. I think what has taken our opponent by surprise is the fact that a change was made and that the choice the party has put forward is something that they are not able to compete against.
“So you will find all sort of cheap argument about he is not known in the area. We are bringing in this by-election, performance and there is no doubt that the St Thomas Municipal Corporation, despite the challenges that it has faced, has been a good municipality and that we are seeing delivery of service to the respected divisions across the municipality.
“What he is bringing to the table is new. There are questions surrounding his opponent and what he is bringing to the table, but we are not getting into that because we’re not here to play that kind of politics. We are here to offer to the Yallahs Division a different agenda, a different way forward and our intention is to win and to increase the majority over the last Local Government Election,” McKenzie said.
A total of 31 polling stations situated across seven voting locations will be used in the division, while 83 Election Day workers will be required to conduct the elections with a budget of $9.5 million that has been allocated to the Electoral Commission to carry it out.
The November 30, 2017 voters’ list will be used for the elections.