BALACLAVA, St Elizabeth — KD Knight, the veteran attorney and ranking member of the People’s National Party (PNP) who successfully defended Kern Spencer in the Cuban light bulb trial almost a decade ago, is not supporting Spencer in this Sunday’s internal election to choose the party’s candidate for the St Elizabeth North Eastern constituency.
According to Knight, his support for Spencer’s opponent, attorney Zuleika Jess, in the contest is grounded in strategy, as the PNP should not give the ruling Jamaica Labour Party any ammunition to fight the next general election.
“Let me tell you something, in politics you have to be strategic… when you get on the platform you don’t want to have to defend any of your own,” Knight told supports at a rally in Balaclava on Thursday night.
“One of the things I love is the celebration, and we want [it], because we support Jess. We want on Sunday to be celebrating. We want Jess to be the winner… My message is a straightforward message: Me nah cuss Kern. [When] Kern was on trial I defended Kern. Is a pity them never have a camera inside deh, because me a tell you is one of the best cases I ever do, because when he went into the court Jamaica done convict him, but when him come out KD and the team acquit him,” Knight said, evoking loud applause from the crowd, including Jess.
“Because Labourite goin’ cuss him if him is the candidate and then when Labourite a cuss him, dem goin call KD. Dem going seh ‘KD, yuh defend him already, you defend again’… As much as I would want to do it, I have 62 other candidates who dem nah cuss fi go defend. When Jess is the candidate, dem can’t cuss her,” added Knight.
Spencer, who had won the seat for the PNP in 2007, was forced to walk away from competitive politics in the build-up to the 2011 General Election following corruption charges — which were eventually dismissed in 2014 — relating to the Cuban light bulb scandal.
On Thursday night, Knight, who was the lead defence attorney in that trial, said he is “not condemning Kern”.
“… In a sense, I am protecting him and so I want you to understand that if you are going to win an election you can’t open up yourself, your corners must be clean… I say yes, to Jess, and I don’t say no to Kern, ennuh, I say not now,” said Knight.
“I say to the party leader [Mark Golding], there are many rooms in Government and so it is a simple thing. Kern, hold yuh corners because I have a room for you, and so he understands that I am not throwing you out, you are still a member of the family, but right now you help us in another way to build the house, for in it you are building a room…” added Knight.
When contacted on Friday and asked to comment on Knight’s endorsement of Jess, Spencer said he respects Knight as his “political father”.
“I love and I respect KD, but KD is a little bit busy in the legal office and is not fully aware of what is happening on the ground all the time. Notwithstanding that, I love KD to my heart. He is my political father and I will always love and respect him,” said Spencer.
He pointed out that another veteran attorney Valerie Neita-Robertson has endorsed him.
“A female King’s Counsel, who was also involved in the defence of my case, she came out in full support of me, indicating that she knows that I am ready to take up back the mantle,” Spencer said, adding that he has vast experience.
“I am not perturbed. I am not troubled by the statement of KD. I still love KD Knight to my heart…The other King’s Counsel, who was a part of my defence team, less than 10 days ago, was on a similar platform in the same constituency endorsing me over Jess. Jess will have high-ranking supporters and I will have high-ranking supporters. Two good King’s Counsel, one supports her [and] one supports me, no love lost,” added Spencer.
Neita-Robertson, in endorsing Spencer recently at the Braes River Divisional conference, had said, “… Kern is a free man and we must respect the judicial system and respect the individual that Kern is. If you need me to mash some corn, just call me.”
Spencer, in responding to Knight’s suggestion that now is not his time to return to representational politics, said he has been successful at organising the PNP’s Region Five as chairman.
“If not now, then when? I have stood down for over a decade when I thought that I could have affected the party’s chances of winning an election…I didn’t just come back on my own, I was requested by the party leader to come and assist my party that was in trouble,” said Spencer.
“I say it without contradiction, I am a part of that reigniting that the party is recognising now, so I say no love lost with KD and his views,” added Spencer.
There are 1,274 delegates eligible to vote during Sunday’s election set for St Elizabeth Technical High School in Santa Cruz between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm.