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Run Devon, run!

BY ALEISA EDWARDS Observer staff reporter aleisae@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 13, 2010    

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OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Whoever gave Devon Evans the idea that he should run for Parliament? By his own admission, it was the Garveyites, followers of the philosophy of the Jamaican national hero.

"When the brethren called and said somebody from St Ann must represent the party in the by-election, as a good Garveyite there is no way I could back down," he recalled.

Evans, the most recent in a handful of journalists — like Colin Campbell and Lloyd B Smith — to throw his hat in the ring, is thought to have less chance of winning against the mighty Shahine Robinson of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Even the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) is staying out of this one.

Devon Evans is running on the ticket of the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party (PPP) in the December 20 by-election for the North East St Ann seat that was vacated by the courts, because Robinson was found a dual citizen when she won the constituency seat in 2007.

But the journalist has largely ignored people telling him that his efforts is a grand waste of time, money and resources.

"People have asked me where you get that energy, where this boldness comes from. I say to them it's not me, it's a calling," Evans told the Sunday Observer in a candid interview at his St Ann base.

The Rastafarian journalist, who is a familiar face and name in the parish, admitted he had no money, neither did he have big companies nor dons backing his candidacy. But he was banking on the people's respect for Jamaica's first national hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey who was also born in St Ann's Bay, to take the seat.

"We are in Garvey's town and we can't underestimate the power of Marcus Garvey, even if he is not around and the inspiration of Garvey that the people have, you can't underestimate the St Ann people. They have been used and refused, but don't believe that they do no have the basic knowledge to know what is right from what is wrong," he insisted.

Evans said he was well aware of the needs of the people — from the craft traders in the resort town, to bad roads throughout the constituency, lack of infrastructural development, issues affecting social services and a range of other problems.

Through his work as a journalist and his involvement in various community and social groups, he had been trying over the years to effect change. Now he has an opportunity to step it up a notch.

"To get a candidate like me is what St Ann people have been looking for. This is the first time they're going to get someone who is born, bred, live in this constituency, work in this constituency and knows all the needs of this constituency," Evans said.

"My determination is to go forward and assist the people by any means necessary," he added, borrowing a phrase from Malcolm X.

Evans is a longstanding supporter of the development of early childhood education in St Ann, and since 1999 has been president of the St Ann Early Childhood Parish Board. He is also the vice-president (VP) of the Jamaica Early Childhood Association since 2006 and has served as VP for the Caribbean Early Childhood Association,.

He has been integrally involved in cultural development across the parish since the 1970's and has played a pivotal role in the development of sports, particularly football, having held the post of deputy president in the St Ann Football Association between 1998 and 2002.

The past student of Ferncourt High in Claremont, St Ann, also served the St Ann Red Cross, the St Ann Cultural Development Committee and the St Ann Disaster Preparedness Committee.

Evans has been recognised by a number of groups including the Jamaica Teachers' Association and the St Ann Chamber of Commerce for his work as a journalist in both print and electronic media.

"My work has not gone unnoticed, these awards and commendation will show that the people of St Ann are very much aware of what I have been doing...I have decided now to go one step further. The barrier that has been holding us back in terms of political representation, I am now prepared to use all the qualities I have to break down those barriers," he said.

Evans, well known as a follower of Garvey, has worked tirelessly to see that the work of the national hero, as well as his birthday, is preserved for generations to come.

He believes that he brings a different type of politics to the constituency and people will no longer feel a sense of being victimised or dictated to by their political representative, if he is elected.

"My win in this by-election will change the political landscape in Jamaica, it will make politicians respect the ordinary people and don't look down on them. It will make politicians realise that their security of tenure is based in the hands of the ordinary people."

One of his first priorities as MP will be to unite the constituents who, he explained, were polarised by the country's two main political parties, the JLP and PNP.

Evans bemoaned the level of victimisation and division caused by politicians within the parish and their inability to move the constituency and parish forward, because of what he said was the constant fight to score political mileage.

"This is what the people will not have from a Devon Evans, a Devon Evans will not be obligated to taking party line, a Devon Evans will listen to the people," he told the Sunday Observer.

"The big difference between me and the average politician is that I have a genuine love for people, but they have a genuine love for power and it's different... I'm a facilitator, not a dictator, I will be going into the community working with the people, the job will be easy because that's what I have been doing for many years as a journalist."

Evans said the constituents had been deeply wounded by an inability to trust Robinson and that they had lost "all confidence in her" and was now looking to "someone who can properly represent them".

"The people of St Ann are aware that if they do not rise to the occasion, prophecy will fulfil on them. The inspiration that I have been getting is very good, what has inspired me a lot is the support I am getting from the middle class."

In the meantime, he says his decision to contest the seat has meant a better Christmas for many of his constituents.

"I know at least, the people of North East St Ann, some of them who didn't hope for a Christmas will be able to enjoy Christmas because of me. The one-day policemen that they have chosen are all unemployed people who wouldn't have a Christmas if I didn't contest this; the election day worker most of whom are JLP supporters, indoor agents, outdoor agents, runners, and taxi drivers will be able to get money because nothing was going on in this constituency."

Evans, born November 2, 1959, is the father of four children - Tabora, 22, Khaldon, 20, Lyambo, 19 and Delano, 18, and has adopted Rossomar Bartley, 14, son of his common-law wife of eight years, Rose Hyatt.

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