St Andrew NW candidates nominated amid little fanfare

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

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VERY little excitement was in the air yesterday when candidates and supporters of the two main political parties marched to Pembroke Hall Community Centre ahead of next month's by-election in St Andrew North Western.

The two groups of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People's National Party (PNP) fanatics braved the midday sun to fortify support for Keisha Hayle and Dr Nigel Clarke — the two candidates who arrived at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm, respectively.

Flanked by party leader Dr Peter Phillips, Campaign Manager Paul Buchanan and other members of the party's executive and secretariat, Hayle was nominated shortly after.

Phillips, who then spoke to members of the media, expressed that the party was pleased with the show of support from presumed constituents.

The PNP president also said that Hayle, who sold her house to support Padmore Primary School where she is principal, is a breath of fresh air in the constituency.

“She's committed to service; she's committed to the people and she is committed to improving their lives. This constituency is not a stepping stone for her; it is an expression of her long-term lifelong commitment to service of the people. She has done it all her life and she has been someone who has constantly answered the call of service…,” he said.

Phillips noted that while winning the seat held by the JLP for 29 years is a “great uphill walk”, there are great possibilities.

He denied claims that Hayle is the party's sacrificial lamb, insisting that she was asked to contest the election because she is committed, is the most resolved, enthusiastic and the most devoted to service, and said that is the reason she was selected.

Hayle, in the meantime, said that she is looking to make St Andrew North Western the “best constituency” by looking at property values, time and motion studies to ensure that a police vehicle is on every road within five minutes, and improved roads.

All this occurred as Comrades berated a JLP supporter who had somehow found himself among them. Chants of “beat him” could be heard as police officers offered him protection while escorting him away from the hostile group.

Shortly after, the PNP clan exited the centre where they briefly addressed said supporters before singing the party's anthem.

As the brief excitement died down, Buchannan told the Jamaica Observer that the party will double its efforts to “wake up the sleeping Comrades in the constituency” of 30,000 voters and promised a clean campaign.

Approximately an hour and a half later, signs that the JLP candidate was approaching were clearer as Labourites gathered outside the gates of the nomination centre.

A truck blaring party-commissioned songs would arrive as more bell-ringing Labourites converged on Ken Hill Drive, this time with their expected future Member of Parliament Clarke.

Clarke greeted members of the party's hierarchy before entering the compound where he greeted a waiting Prime Minister Andrew Holness, before making his way into the centre.

The group, after he was nominated, also sang the party's anthem before vacating the building.

On the outside, members of the media waited to speak with Holness, who, instead, made his way to his Government-assigned vehicle, while a member of his security detail held on to the microphone of a member of the media in an attempt to prevent interviews. Holness left soon after.

Clarke, in the meantime, said that the reception from constituents has been “amazing”.

Asked if he had the full support of the party, including that of former MP Derrick Smith, Security Minister Robert Montague opted to answer the question by telling the Observer that Clarke has the full support of “every officer, member and supporter of the JLP”.

Pressed about the noticeable absence of Smith, Montague said that the former MP is not in the peak of health but that his spirit and organisation was present. His son, Duane, was present for the day's exercise.

Clarke was then asked if it was his decision to represent the party or whether he was forced to. He said: “Service is not new to me; I've been doing service all my life. I've served Jamaica in a number of capacities and this is just another capacity in which I'll continue to serve Jamaica.”

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