‘Fresh start’

SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Two sitting People’s National Party (PNP) councillors, Everton Fisher and Audie Myers, have thrown their weight behind lawyer Zuleika Jess to represent the Opposition party in St Elizabeth North Eastern at the next parliamentary election.

“[She] has a bright future going forward for the constituency, the party, and also the parish. [She is] an outstanding attorney-at-law, a lady of integrity, and a lady who has the people at heart. She has been here for a couple weeks now… and we are behind her 100 per cent,” Myers, who represents the Siloah Division, told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

Fisher, councillor for the Balaclava Division and a former mayor of Black River, shared similar sentiments.

“Persons who have been in substantial positions over the years, [including] myself, have sat down and looked at the party’s chances of going forward and we have come up with the fact that we need a fresh start to [St Elizabeth] North East. There are persons who would want to vie for the seat, but they have been there before,” he said.

Fisher’s reference to persons wanting to contest was apparently in relation to Kern Spencer who won St Elizabeth North Eastern for the PNP in 2007. Spencer was, however, forced to walk away from competitive politics in the build-up to the 2011 elections following corruption charges — which were eventually dismissed — related to the so-called Cuban light bulb scandal.

When contacted on Monday, Spencer said he was “undecided” about seeking to contest but claimed to have the “overwhelming support” of comrades in St Elizabeth North Eastern.Parliamentary elections are not constitutionally due until 2025 but Prime Minister Andrew Holness can send Jamaica to the polls earlier if he so desires.

Jess, who lost to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) giant Mike Henry in the 2020 parliamentary election in Clarendon Central, declined to comment when contacted.

Long considered a stronghold of the PNP, St Elizabeth North Eastern was lost to the ruling JLP’s Delroy Slowley in 2020 — among the shock results of that election, which the JLP won by a landslide.

Fisher, who lost to Basil Waite in an internal contest in the build-up to the 2020 election, said he is among “influential leaders” backing Jess.

“We have all decided to put our interests aside and look at a fresh start,” he said.

While Myers and Fisher are behind Jess, the other sitting councillor Donovan Pagon (Braes River, PNP) declined to say where his support lies when contacted on Monday.

Pagon, who is the PNP’s chairman of St Elizabeth North Eastern, said no application has been made for the seat.

“I see people going around but we have not received any application as yet so we can’t confirm anything [standard-bearer],” he said.

Spencer, current chairman of the PNP’s Region Five (St Elizabeth and Manchester), exuded great confidence yesterday even while insisting that his immediate priority is to ensure success for his party in local government elections expected soon.

“The delegates of the constituency have been asking me to be their standard-bearer again and I have been listening to them and I am internalising it in my mind. My focus, however, is the pending local government elections,” he said.

Spencer credited his organisational work over recent times for what he claims has been a turnaround of the “PNP’s fortunes” in St Elizabeth.

“I am very happy that the seat [St Elizabeth North Eastern] is now attracting persons who are now interested in [it] because after the loss of the seat in the last election and I started to work it as constituency secretary, there was no interest — nobody never want it,” he said.

“The seat is now once again attractive in the eyes of Comrades and they understand that it can now be won, and that is a testimony of the work that I have been doing — not only as regional chairman but as constituency secretary,” added Spencer.

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