Young lawyer wants to follow in political footsteps of late uncle

Ian
Stephenson is buoyed by one constant inspiration: He wants to follow in the footsteps of his late uncle Ewan Stephenson, and go one step further in registering success in his native parish of St Elizabeth.

Ian, 41, is a practising attorney-at-law with an office in one of Jamaica’s fastest growing towns, Junction in the south western parish. He is committed to going after the St Elizabeth South Eastern seat as the representative of the People’s National Party, if the Opposition movement gives him the opportunity to carry its flag in the next general election due in a shade over two and a half years from now.

Ewan Stephenson failed in his bid twice to become Member of Parliament for the adjoining St Elizabeth South Western seat; firstly in the run-off to determine the candidate in the 2016 general election, which he lost to the incumbent Hugh Buchanan; and when approved to run for the party in the same seat four years later in the 2020 General Election, he lost to the Jamaica Labour Party’s Floyd Green. In that election, Stephenson ran a bold campaign to convince the electorate that he was the better man, despite suffering from cancer of the stomach. He died the following year, aged 59, after a brave fight to conquer the disease.

“I am really following in the footsteps of Ewan,” Ian Stephenson confirmed to the Jamaica Observer in an interview last week. Ewan was an inspiration, one who encouraged me before he passed. With him having passed, I saw it as an opportunity, so to speak, and I put my hat in the ring, first in South West, because Ewan had a legacy there; but following the encouragement of some other members of the party, senior members in particular, they urged me to vie for the position here in South East, given that I live here and have a law practice here, so I have firmer roots in the constituency,” Stephenson said.

“Again I have to fall back on Ewan. He was really inspirational in the way he conducted himself and dealt with the people. He was for the people and had the people’s interest at heart, and that itself was an inspiration. He did his part, and it’s basically picking up the mantle, albeit in a different constituency,” Ian continued.

Admitting that his law business, which focuses heavily on criminal law, and land-related matters as part of a general practice, has been “quite rewarding so far, and a very good learning experience,” Ian said defending people has also solidified the foundation for him to enter into elective politics.

He also cited perennially lingering problems, such as the poor condition of roads, garbage management and collection, as well as the lack of a meaningful agri-marketing programme in what is known islandwide as one of Jamaica’s highly productive agricultural zones, as challenges that he can fix, should he be allowed entry into the hallowed halls of representative politics.

“The fact is that I am not pleased with the representation that we have been offered for the last seven years by current Member of Parliament Franklin Witter, particularly in respect of roads. The roads have deteriorated so badly, and are being ignored; the garbage pile-up which we are now experiencing … it’s the first in my lifetime, that I have ever seen my parish and particularly my constituency, in such a state. Initially, those were the main impetuses for me to put my hat in the ring, because I believe I can provide better representation in the constituency.

“This constituency is largely dependent on agriculture and agro-industry, and a continuation of that is the way forward for its future development. Agriculture, really, is the backbone of south east St Elizabeth and the farmers, particularly, under the current Government have been somewhat left out. The market is not there for the small guys…the small farmers. It’s really a one-man show in the sense that one person basically controls the main marketing of produce.

“Back in the day when I was growing up, farmers would sell to people who would trade with the hotels and so forth, and people who go to market. But one of the main sources was trading with the hotels. For example, my father benefited from that – people would buy from him and take it to the hotels, but what we are having now is actually one person who is actually supplying the hotels down here, primarily. So more could be done in regard to agri-marketing,” Stephenson said.

He has already done the initial requirement, that of formally applying to the party’s hierarchy to be its representative, and confirmed to the Sunday Observer that he had received a response that the document had landed on the appropriate desk at the party’s secretariat, and that the next step would likely be an interview process, perhaps within weeks.

Ian Stephenson was born in Seaview, part of the Southfield division in the constituency, and attended Seaview All Age, now primary, Munro College. He read, successfully, for a four-year Bachelor’s degree programme in Computing and Information Technology at the University of Technology, which was followed by a period of work in the corporate sector. He then enrolled for the law programme offered by the University of London in Jamaica and was later accepted at Norman Manley Law School where he completed his studied, and was called to the Jamaican Bar in 2014.

His decision to explore a move into politics has the full backing of those close to him.

“I am fully backed in this regard by family — father, mother, brother, cousins —which is also a major source of encouragement,” Stephenson said.

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