Excitement in the Arena as Crawford, Paulwell, McNeill, Phillips come home

Staff reporter

Sunday, September 16, 2018

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DAMION Crawford yesterday reversed his fortunes at the National Arena in Kingston when he emerged the first of four People's National Party (PNP) vice-presidents elect following a hotly contested election.

Only two years after being rejected by the delegates of St Andrew East Rural to represent that constituency in the 2016 General Election, Crawford, an Opposition senator, collected 1,973 votes from the 81 per cent of delegates who participated in the election.

“I am confused, really. I am feeling excited and I am feeling nervous based on the expectations that the people have of me and how likely I am to be able to fulfil those expectations. It has been a long campaign; it has been a hard campaign, but the people of the People's National Party have never given up on me,” Crawford told journalists after PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson announced the results.

“I hope to make this an example that when you're down you're not out, and if you're nothing you can be something. I am coming from nowhere in two years and now to be elected first [of] the four vice-presidents of the People's National Party,” he added.

Crawford had earlier in the day told the Jamaica Observer that his place was by the side of PNP President Dr Peter Phillips, who has endured criticism about his age and ambition to one day occupy Jamaica House.

“People misunderstand what a base means. A base means sure support. People assume that a constituency means sure support, but I think I have national connections that are sure to support me. The younger voters are sure to support me. The assumption that I didn't have a base because I didn't have a constituency is flawed.

“We lost an election that we were predicted to win and now we're going to try and win an election that we're predicted to lose. Every individual has to look at themselves and ask what more can I do? How can I be more effective and efficient? I believe that I have been one of those who have been gaining attention for the party.

“I also believe that within the party I am the greatest complement to Peter Phillips, and the PNP has always ran with a complement. When they said Michael Manley was white, P J [Patterson] was his complement. When they said P J wasn't energetic Portia [Simpson Miller] was his complement. When they claimed Portia wasn't smart Phillips was her complement. And so now they are claiming Phillips is an old person, I think I can become that complement,” he told the Sunday Observer.

Among plans to deliver the next general election to the 80-year-old party. Is the idea of a youth manifesto that is expected to regain favour with the country's youth who have long shown little interest in Jamaica's politics.

There were 3,090 delegates who were eligible to vote in yesterday's election. Of that figure, 2513 voted, representing 81 per cent of the delegates. Incumbent Dr Fenton Ferguson received 1,307 votes; incumbent Dr Angela Brown Burke received 1,577 votes; incumbent Dr Wykeham McNeill received 1,766 votes while newcomers Phillip Paulwell and Mikael Phillips polled 1,645 and 1,782 votes respectively. Each delegate was asked to select four candidates from a pool of six. In 2016, Dr Ferguson came out on top, polling 2,479 votes, while Brown Burke finished fourth with 2,009. Five candidates contested that election.

Mikael, who is the son of the party leader, told the Sunday Observer that his campaign focused on the party itself and what was expected and required going forward.

“I have always said to trust the delegates and they will do what they feel is right for the party. It has been a tight field. There were six good candidates, five plus myself, who went forward, and as I told you earlier today this shows the depth of the party. It is overwhelming to know that I was elected in the top two in a tightly contested internal election and it shows that the comrades are ready to work and do what is necessary for the People's National Party to form Government again. I will not let them down,” he said.

Paulwell was accompanied to the polls by former PNP leader Portia Simpson Miller even as concerns mounted that two candidates from the party's strongest region (three) would affect each other's chances at the end of the day.

Brown Burke, a known ally of Paulwell and who previously had the backing of Simpson Miller, came up short in the end. The two shrugged off the idea of defeat, choosing to focus on plans afoot if elected. However, it is Paulwell who will get the opportunity to establish a national task force to involve all the party's regions which would help to push a medical health scheme for the elderly in the party.

“I ran a very hard campaign. It was very energetic. I think we did very well. The mood of the party is for new faces and change. There are no losers though. I want to commend the two outgoing vice-presidents and what we have to do now is to make sure we unify the party quickly and solidify our efforts to take back [George William] Gordon House and Jamaica House,” he told the Sunday Observer.

Dr McNeill, whose first taste of the party's second tier leadership came in 2016 when he won his bid for vice-president, said he was both overwhelmed and humbled to be re-elected.

“Now the real work begins,” he said.

Delegates and supporters of the party waited restlessly for approximately three hours after polls closed at 4:00 pm to hear the results. Voting began at 10:00 am.

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