Stephenson plans to overturn 2,000-vote margin in St Elizabeth SW

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PEDRO PLAINS, St Elizabeth — People’s National Party (PNP) candidate Ewan Stephenson firmly believes that his candidacy will return the St Elizabeth South Western seat to the PNP just as in the days of former Member of Parliament (MP), the late Donald Buchanan, but with a greater margin of victory.

St Elizabeth South Western, which is considered a weathervane constituency, saw its largest margin of victory since 1989 being that of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) incumbent Floyd Green defeating former PNP MP Hugh Buchanan by 2,057 votes in 2016.

Newcomer, Stephenson, told the Jamaica Observer recently that his strategy will reverse the over 2,000-vote margin.

“When we analysed the figures [from] the 2011 election, Hugh Buchanan won over Christopher Tufton, and in comparing the numbers of 2011 and 2016, there is a difference of about 1,500 votes. We could say that 1,500 PNP [supporters] did not vote [and] now we can easily account for that 1,500. The other 500, we can easily overturn that figure. New voters have come on,” he confidently said last Thursday in an interview.

He claims that the JLP is losing support in the constituency and that he has gained tremendous support.

“The JLP is losing ground in the constituency, and I am gaining ground with JLP supporters in the constituency. It is not difficult for me to overturn that figure [2,057]… I had done a lot of groundwork before. I took over the constituency in 2017 and from then I have been working the ground, so I am known right across the constituency. I have done my good deeds and the people are about to reward me on September 3,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson, who earlier this year revealed to the Observer that he had done surgery for stomach cancer, says he has the remedy for issues facing the constituents.

“I have some good ideas for the constituency that [people] have bought into. For example, there are some burning issues here to be dealt with. Our roadways are in a deplorable condition. My opponent has been going around and talking that he has fixed 25 roads… Out of that 25 roads, probably three are completed,” he said.

“Flagaman, which is one of our main farming communities, was once considered as the breadbasket of Jamaica, and now, in 2020, there is [still] no irrigation in that area. My intention is to ensure that we can get that area irrigated,” he continued.

He has promised that if elected, the fishing sector will be among his priorities.

“What we need in St Elizabeth is to have a boatyard established, which can be done. There is government land down in Font Hill where there is a natural harbour… We could train the youth who are not employed and who have the capability to repair boats and to gain experience,” he said.

“We cannot count on the $20-million Constituency Development Fund alone… When we were building the highways, we didn’t have the money to do it, but we got them built. [And], especially the water for the irrigation, we can invite private investors to come [and invest]. The water will not be for free, it will be sold to the farmers and they are willing to pay for it. The same thing for the boatyard,” he continued.

Water supply has been a long-standing problem for residents and farmers in the southern parts of St Elizabeth, which is largely rich in agricultural activities ahead of tourism and the fishing industry.

Stephenson says he sees much potential in the expansion of tourism in Black River — St Elizabeth’s capital. Among the oldest towns in Jamaica, Black River is often spoken of in terms of its possibilities for heritage tourism. Also, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, boat tours up and down the river of the same name was a thriving business.

“Black River has a lot of rich history. It is the first place in Jamaica that electricity came to. We could use that as one factor that could attract tourists. It was also the first town that a motor car came to… We can also look at the possibility of having a bridge that can be opened [a bascule bridge], so that we can have larger vessels going up the Black River,” Stephenson said.

He also has big plans for the cultivation of marijuana by small farmers in the constituency, by assisting them in getting cannabis licences.

“Some of the areas, we need to ensure that we can provide licences for the small farmers who are involved in the cultivation of marijuana. What is happening now is that if you’re not a ‘monied’ person, you’re unable to get a licence… The small man that has endured all the pains that came with cultivating ganja, they are the ones that have been left out. We need to get them involved so that they can become licensed producers of ganja,” he said.

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