Four eye PNP leadership in Kingston Central

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AT least four people have indicated an intention to enter the race to replace Ronald Thwaites as the People’s National Party (PNP) standard bearer in Kingston Central when delegates vote on Saturday, June 22.

The PNP’s Executive Committee yesterday gave individuals interested in the seat until Friday to formally announce their interest to the party’s general secretary. A draft voters’ list is to be presented to the candidates next Monday.

But before that the aspirants will have to face the party’s Integrity Commission and must be cleared before they are allowed to enter the race.

Thwaites has not formally announced his intention not to contest the next general election. However, the PNP has confirmed that he will not.

Last year the PNP’s former representative for St Andrew West Rural, Paul Buchanan, indicated his desire to replace Thwaites in the constituency.

At that time Buchanan said he had no plan to challenge Thwaites, who has held the seat for the party since 2007 but argued that the constituency was desperately in need of renewal and he was the man for the job.

Months ago reports also emerged that former MP for St Elizabeth North Eastern Raymond Pryce had indicated an interest in the constituency in which his high school — St George’s College — sits and where he has family roots.

“Raymond has started meetings in the constituency, sending out letters to businesses and trying to sell his ideas to Comrades who have so far been very receptive,” one senior PNP member told the Jamaica Observer.

But just as it seemed it would be a two-man race, they were joined at the starting line by Imani Duncan-Price, who sent a letter to Thwaites and members of the PNP’s Central Kingston Constituency Executive last week, indicating that she wants to serve as its next representative.

“Following my discussions with MP Comrade Ronnie Thwaites, I would now like to share with you that if, and when, a vacancy exists for the position of PNP candidate for Central Kingston, I intend to offer myself,” said Duncan-Price.

“My experience at all levels of party work, together with my service in the Senate, along with my training in finance, business development, advocacy for change, as well as community development, will enable me to offer the kind of leadership that will take Central Kingston further along the path of progress and development,” added Duncan-Price.

She said Thwaites has accepted her offer to work with the constituency organisation and to play her part in re-energising the PNP’s base in the constituency, “which will require a special effort to prepare the next generation for their future role in the leadership of the party”.

The race became more crowded this Monday when businessman Patrick Sterling also indicated that he intends to offer himself for the seat.

“After 17 years of working with my people in central Kingston with kindness, humility, compassion, and caring, I’ve been asked by the MP, and friend, Ronald Thwaites to represent the community that I grew [up] in, went to school (Holy Family), cultivated lifelong friends in, cried in, and laughed in,” said Sterling in a lengthy Facebook post.

“I have no political pedigree, or party hierarchical network. But with love, compassion, and hard work, and the support of the hundreds of people I have personally connected with, I will prevail,” added Sterling.

He argued that the Jamaican political ecosystem has undergone a seismic shift in the past four years and neither of the two major political parties can afford to conduct business in the same old way, with the same people.

“Political parties must be of the people, by the people, for the people. Each community should be represented by people within those communities. We should no longer support the old elitist British system of ‘sending’ representatives who know best for our community.

“Central Kingston is quite capable of selecting our own grass-roots leader. We need persons who have worked in our communities for several years [and] who were raised there,” said Sterling.

The long-time Comrade added: “I’ve been helping my people all these years simply out of my understanding for their needs and concerns, and subsequently have committed many, many hours working in the community.”

Sterling said in the next few days he will officially present a letter of intent to Thwaites, the party’s delegates, group members, and workers.

Thwaites, who first won the Kingston Central constituency for the PNP in 1997, took a sabbatical from representational politics after he was linked to a controversial deal and did not contest the 2002 general elections. But the PNP still retained the seat with Victor Cummings.

In 2007 Thwaites returned and retained the seat with a 15 per cent victory margin. This increased to 21 per cent in his 2011 victory but declined to 13 per cent in the last general election in 2016.

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