Politics getting hot in St Andrew West Rural constituency

Politics getting hot in St Andrew West Rural constituency

Thursday, August 06, 2020

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THE battle for the key St Andrew West Rural constituency is heating up, with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) levelling charges against each other.

Both parties have identified the constituency as a must win, as the party emerging victorious in St Andrew West Rural has gone on to win the last three general elections.

This time around, the JLP’s Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, the sitting Member of Parliament (MP), is slated to face off with Krystal Tomlinson, president of the PNP’s Youth Organisation.

In recent weeks there have been reports of growing political tension in sections of the constituency, and indications are that things are coming to a boil following a run-in last Saturday.

On Sunday, JLP deputy leader and Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie issued a statement condemning what he said were the actions of Tomlinson, who, he claimed, allowed political messages to be broadcast from a vehicle bearing the logo of the State-run Social Development Commission (SDC).

“I am condemning this in the strongest terms. There is no justifiable reason for the SDC’s logo to be on any vehicle or at any location at which political activity is taking place. I have ordered a thorough investigation into this matter, and the permanent secretary in the ministry will be providing me with a report by midday tomorrow [Monday, August 3],” said McKenzie.

“I am also using this opportunity to advise and remind the staff of the SDC that they are not to engage in any form of political activity. I also call on them to be careful about the use of all branded material, and to protect, at all times, the credibility of the agency,” added McKenzie.

But hours later, Tomlinson responded with a letter to Political Ombudsman, Donna Parchment Brown, alleging intimidation by the sitting MP.

With an attached photograph, Tomlinson alleged that Cuthbert Flynn obstructed a private vehicle acting on behalf of the PNP’s campaign.

“The vehicle was broadcasting my Emancipation Day message to constituents in the Red Hills Division of the West Rural St Andrew constituency. Reports from the driver indicate that he was cut off by…Mrs Flynn, upon entering a community,” charged Tomlinson.

“He was then approached by a group of her supporters and told to exit his vehicle. After negotiating with the crowd of supporters and through some prodding from other well-thinking residents who observed the altercation, the group of JLP supporters…allowed the driver to exit the area,” added Tomlinson.

She argued that the actions of Cuthbert Flynn were a flagrant disregard of the principles contained in the Political Code of Conduct, and “feed the public perception that politicians are tactless and that aggression and intimidation still have a place in our political culture”.

Tomlinson said she has noted the concern that the town crier’s vehicle “sported branding from a previous engagement while conducting our campaign activities”.

She said the owner of the vehicle has already removed the SDC logo.

“A lawful and level-headed response would have been to make a report to the relevant agency. To create a roadblock was a most inappropriate course of action, which must be decried and discouraged. I ask you, through your office, to investigate this matter and take the necessary steps to keep Mrs Flynn and her team within the margins of lawful and decent conduct,” Tomlinson urged the political ombudsman.

However, on Tuesday, Cuthbert Flynn, after initially stating that she had no comment to make on the matter, denied that she had blocked the car with her vehicle.

“The thing is, I didn’t block the vehicle. I was in my car talking to someone and trying to park. The car was parked. The gentleman was parked,” she said.

Asked if the car being driven by the man was an SDC vehicle, Cuthbert Flynn said, “It had SDC written all over it, and I’m trying to find out, to get to the bottom of it, as to where the car came from and whose car it was. Miss Tomlinson said it was a private vehicle, maybe you can ask her, because she said it was a private vehicle, but it had SDC written all over it.”

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