Bigger race is on! Charles, Duncan-Sutherland share SE Clarendon plan
The noise has died since the March 2 by-election in South East Clarendon, save for the pickle in which People’s National Party (PNP) caretaker, Patricia Duncan-Sutherland found herself in on account of her ‘Observer’ team mission on the day.
That aside, the two main protagonists in the constituency, Duncan Sutherland and Member of Parliament (MP)-elect, the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Pearnel Charles Jr, are expecting to soon face the electorate in the pending general elections, with each contender throwing down the gauntlet, confident that the respective plans for the constituency will elevate them to be the next (MP).
While Jr contested and won the by-election, Duncan Sutherland and the Opposition PNP opted out of the contest, citing it as being unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Both pending candidates, however, who were actively engaged on the ground during the by-elections, used the event to navigate the terrain in the expansive constituency, and the opportunity to outline their plans for the constituency, should they become the longer-term MP.
According to Charles Jr, his ministerial appointments over the years have made him the right person for the constituency at the moment, as he plans to leverage the knowledge gained for the benefit of the people there.
He said: “it is as if I was handpicked and prepared for this challenge because the water challenges, I have served as minister with responsibility for water; the housing challenges, I have served as minister with responsibility for housing; the infrastructure challenges, I have served with responsibility for infrastructure.
“In terms of opportunities for youths, I have served in the Ministry of National Security, where I developed programmes that created opportunities for youths and the youths that were the most vulnerable of all in our country, our juvenile offenders.
“In terms of connectivity, finding support for this constituency, I have serviced in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where I have gone across the world expressing and representing Jamaica and connecting the world to Jamaica,” Charles Jr said.
According to him, his position on the United Nation’s body that focusses on climate change, resilience and energy, will enable him to tackle the coastal erosion being faced by the Salt River, Jackson Bay and Rocky Point communities along the southern section of the island.
Charles Jr also said he would be working with the individuals in the constituency, as well as schools, churches and the various institutions, to ensure that there will be a measurable success to evaluate his representation.
He said while the challenges are intricate, he has been listening and will continue to hear the workers within the constituency, to work on small issues primarily, but continuing simultaneously to build on the work of Rudyard Spencer, the former long-time JLP MP, who resigned suddenly, triggering the by-election.
Among the areas that Charles Jr said Spencer worked on were the road network and water problems being faced by residents in the constituency, which he said he would continue to develop.
“We have to set up a sustainable system to really attack the road networks, short and long-term, to really put in place the water systems, short and long-term, contemplating that people want it now, but knowing that if we use that investment only for the now, we are going to short change ourselves; so we have to find that balance.
“People want help now, but as a leader, that’s your responsibility to find that judicious balance between the immediate help and the investment that is needed for long-term sustainable development.
“I think that I have the requisite skills and experience to really make a difference here. It is not going to be easy, I don’t expect to do everything in one term, but my goal is to make sure that at the end of it all, we have measurable success,” Charles Jr said.
Meanwhile, according to Duncan Sutherland, she will be working with the people of the constituency with a primary target of tackling educational and agricultural issues.
She said that South East Clarendon being the poorest in the parish, she would be placing efforts on using the lands that were once a part of the island’s sugar production base to empower the lower socio-economic groupings within the constituency.
Duncan-Sutherland said, “We are going to work with the people to work out how to get the land into productive use. This will be not for the big farmer, but for each individual on the ground. How do we make those agro parks truly work for the people?”
She said the process will include getting Vere Technical High School returned to an agriculture-based institution, while utilising the presence of the PJ Patterson Highway (Highway 2000) to help drive investment in the constituency.
“What comes off from agriculture is agro-processing and what can spinoff from that in terms of what we can get out of logistics. We are very close to the highway, so we can move our stuff, we can connect into the tourism industry,” added Duncan Sutherland.
She said that while the redistribution of lands has had limited progress in the constituency, some headway has been made through her efforts as the PNP caretaker, with connections being made with marketers who will assist with exporting produce from farms that have been started with the youths. She said the Gayle and New Town communities are where those youth farms have been started.
Another major factor for Duncan Sutherland will be to target schools, mainly those at the primary level, to lift the standard of education in the constituency to enable them to be at a more acceptable level nationally.
“We know that our people have not been properly prepared for the work world, and we know this because when we look at our primary schools, none of them are among the top 50 on the island.
“So we are going to be working with our primary schools and include the Ministry of Education,” she said.
Duncan Sutherland also said she has started and will continue consultations with the business community within the constituency.
“We know that we have some plans that we can execute on,” she concluded.