‘Clear choice’

OCHO RIOS, St Ann – While Comrades await a final decision from the party hierarchy, Patricia Sutherland has congratulated her opponent Dr Kenneth Russell for getting the most votes in Sunday’s internal race to represent the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) in St Ann South Eastern. Meanwhile, former PNP chairman Fitz Jackson and Russell himself are urging the party to respect the voters’ choice.

“I’d like to congratulate Comrade Kenneth Russell, who received the most votes, and I’d like to congratulate all Comrades who came out to participate in South East St Ann,” Sutherland told the Jamaica Observer on Monday afternoon.

She opted not to say much more on the issue. On Sunday, Sutherland got 177 votes; Wavell Hinds netted 345, and Russell 358.

The PNP has indicated that, as none of the three aspirants got “50 per cent plus one” of the votes, its rules dictate that its election monitoring committee in consultation with the officers of Region One, within which the constituency falls, “shall determine the process which may involve a run-off with the two top aspirants”.

However, on Monday both Jackson and Russell appeared to suggest that there is no need for a run-off.

“There is a clear preference by the party members who voted as to who they think should be the candidate and I’m hoping that the recommendation of the party will be consistent with what the votes suggested,” Russell told the Observer.

“I’m waiting for a decision to be made in my favour, the difference is significant, as [can be seen] from the votes of the delegates,” he added.

Jackson also believes Russell’s victory was decisive.

“It was not a public opinion poll, it was from the membership of the constituency expressing their preference and he performed well with a clear 15 per cent margin,” Jackson said, adding that he is confident that his preferred candidate will be victorious once a decision is made.

“We accept that there is a process in terms of confirming the candidate but we have a great deal of confidence that good judgement will prevail and we remain confident that the decision will be favourable to us and, by extension, the people in the constituency,” Jackson added.

On Monday, some of Russell’s supporters told Nationwide News that there would be “hell and powder house” in the constituency if Russell is not given the green light. The aspiring candidate said he could understand their discontent.

“People are disappointed with the fact that there is a suggestion for the need of another process when there is clearly an overwhelming choice,” he explained.

The PNP has not provided a timeline for when a decision will be made.

This is the latest brouhaha within the party as it seeks to identify winnable candidates to face off against the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the next national poll. There was trouble in St Catherine South Eastern when Dr Alfred Dawes was selected by PNP President Mark Golding, shocking supporters of long-time worker Councillor Alric Campbell.

Party insiders had claimed that Campbell, who had also applied to become the PNP candidate for the seat, topped Dr Dawes in an internal poll and, had the party hierarchy put the contest to a vote, in keeping with its stated mode of choosing candidates, the councillor would have won.

However, that claim was debunked by Dr Dawes, and his supporters see him as the candidate more likely to win against the JLP and a better choice for member of the Cabinet in a future PNP Government.

There was also a contentious selection process in Westmoreland Western where Ian Hayles was added to the list of PNP candidates after another aspirant, councillor for the Sheffield Division Garfield James, requested that his name be omitted from the voting process. James cited several issues with the overall selection process, including concerns about the delegates’ list that was prepared for the internal vote. Some of his supporters have vowed to stay away on election day, effectively allowing the JLP to take the seat. The party hierarchy has rejected claims that there were irregularities with the voters’ list.