Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Commotion in councils
PNP walk-outs in Portland, St Catherine, Manchester; No-confidence motion against Lucea mayor
Observer Reporter
Friday, July 09, 2004


CAMPBELL. I have not heard anything besides what was aired on the news

People's National Party councillors staged what appeared to be politically-inspired and co-ordinated walk-outs in three local government authorities yesterday.

At the fourth, in Hanover, a sour session continued but the Jamaica Labour Party chairman Lester Crooks seemed to face a real challenge to his leadership - which is to be resolved when the parish council next meets in September after its August recess.

SHAW. it certainly would give an appearance of there being an orchestrated plan to frustrate the councils

Crooks has been accused of being high-handed and autocratic, apparently causing unease even among some of his JLP colleagues.

Last night JLP officials described the actions in Portland, St Catherine and Manchester, and even Hanover, as deliberately disruptive and seemingly aimed at undermining the work of the councils that the party has controlled for the past year.

CROOKS. no-confidence vote brought against him

"It certainly would give an appearance of there being an orchestrated plan to frustrate the councils," said JLP deputy leader Audley Shaw. ". Obviously, this is something we have to discuss with the party and we have to certainly prepare ourselves for more of this sort of thing, especially in the councils where the balance is very close."

However, the PNP's central secretariat denied official co-ordination of yesterday's actions.

"Normally information on matters like that would come through the party secretariat to me but I have not heard anything besides what was aired on the news," said the party's deputy general secretary Colin Campbell.

The JLP, in opposition nationally, won a dozen of the local parish councils in municipal elections last year, but mostly with very narrow margins.

The new councils have largely been seen to be operating relatively competently, and with bi-partisan agreement. But yesterday things appeared to break down, although in Hanover a no-confidence motion in Crooks' leadership had been on the table since last month, awaiting debate until yesterday's meeting.

The debate, however, was postponed because of the absence of its promoter, PNP councillor Lloyd Hill, who had a family emergency.

Political watchers in Hanover suggested that Crooks' position was shaky as Hill and his two other colleagues in the seven-member council appeared to have persuaded at least one JLP councillor, Audley Gilpin, to side with them. Gilpin, however, has not commented on how he will vote.

At the end of yesterday's session Crooks declined to comment in detail, saying that it is out-of-turn speak that has been the bane of his party.

"What cause the downfall of the Jamaica Labour Party is because some of them guys chat too damn much," he said. "There is a motion that is on the table. We asked that it be suspended to another meeting, and as far as I am concerned, that's it."

At the end of the island, in eastern Jamaica, the quarrel was also over a challenge to the leadership of the chairman of the Portland Parish Council Alston Hunter.

At their meeting a month ago, PNP members had given verbal notice of their planned no-confidence motion in the "political leadership" of the local government. But yesterday when PNP councillor Wayne McKenzie tried, he was advised by the secretary/manager Franklyn Smith that the regulations required that he needed to give written notice of his intention to move the motion.

But later, another PNP councillor, Doreen Forbes, challenged Smith and his failure to advise earlier of the need for a written notice.

"This side of the council is dissatisfied with the present leadership and we do not have any confidence in the present leadership of the council, the mayor and his deputy," she said before initiating the PNP walk-out.

In St Catherine, on the south coast, the issue was over the failure of chairman Raymoth Notice to answer PNP councillors, immediately and fully, about the status of JLP member Henry Fisher, who was arrested in Miami in April for allegedly attempting to smuggle cocaine aboard a cruise ship.

The uproar began early on when PNP member Natalie Neita-Headley asked whether Fisher had resigned or if he was still being paid. Notice declined to answer, saying he would deal with the matter under the agenda item called chairman's announcement.

Notice was accused of attempting to hide information, although he did say later that Fisher had sent a letter of resignation, via a family member, which would soon be with the parish council.

But the 10 PNP members, saying that they were dissatisfied with Notice's handling of the matter, walked out. They threatened to stay away from full council meetings but attend committee sessions.

The ostensible reason for the PNP protest in Manchester was the decision not to discuss a matter relating to a bus park that had earlier been referred to the infrastructure committee.

Later when PNP councillors sought to raise the issue again the deputy chairman, Sally Porteous, insisted that the matter be taken up at that committee, leading to the walk-out.

At the time all six PNP councillors were present and only five of the seven JLP members.

People's National Party

89 Old Hope Road

Kingston 6, Jamaica W.I.