This week’s overall development as the overall Newsmaker of the Week just ended are the astonishing political happenings in Westmoreland since three People’s National Party (PNP) councillors in the Western Westmoreland constituency resigned from the PNP to become independent representatives on Monday, citing their opposition to the selection of PNP Vice-President, Ian Hayles, as the party’s caretaker-candidate for the constituency.
In an unprecedented twist, later in the week, the three ex-PNP councillors joined forces with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillors of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) in a successful motion to remove PNP Councillor Danree Delancy as Deputy Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar.
This “political reshuffle” of sorts in the WMC is being eyed as part of a wider possible move by the three former PNP councillors and their JLP counterparts in the council, to oust PNP Councillor for the Negril Division, Bertel Moore, as Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar and WMC Chairman.
But the three former PNP councillors – Garfield James, Councillor for the Sheffield Division; Lawton McKenzie, Councillor for the Grange Hill Division; and Ian Myles, Councillor for the Little London Division – have all denied that that is their intention.
Interestingly, Myles was voted in to replace Delancy as Deputy Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar, instead of a JLP councillor, a move that could further fuel the perception by political observers that the ex-PNP councillors could next month join a similar motion to oust Moore as mayor, if such a motion does arise.
For now, the three councillors under the microscope in Westmoreland have all committed to not doing so in any future council meetings, citing their commitment to Moore’s leadership as mayor.
Besides those developments, the Opposition PNP, which has been celebrating an almost five per cent lead over the JLP in an opinion poll last month, will be faced with the task of unifying their team in Western Westmoreland, one of the seats it needs to reclaim if it is to win the next general elections that are due in 2025.
The seat is now held by the JLP’s Moreland Wilson, who defeated the PNP’s Dr Wykeham McNeill in the last national polls, during which the PNP was left hobbling after its catastrophic 14 – 49 seat defeat.
The developments this week in Westmoreland, however, will be a further blow, as observed by political observers, to the efforts of the Opposition party to rid itself of the perception that it is a political organisation riddled by disunity.
As those negative issues raise their head, the PNP has condemned the actions of its former councillors, describing them as an “unprecedented betrayal”.
The first salvo in the political developments in Westmoreland came on Monday when James, Myles and McKenzie announced their resignations from the PNP during a press conference at Hotel Commingle in the parish capital, Savanna-la-Mar.
The other PNP Councillor in the constituency, Bertel Moore of the Negril Division, who is also Savanna-la-Mar Mayor, was absent from the press conference after purportedly promising that he would have attended and similarly resign as a PNP councillor.
The three ex-PNP councillors are still reportedly up in arms with the party for giving Ian Hayles the nod as the constituency standard bearer for the upcoming general elections.
James, who was also contesting for the seat, withdrew his candidacy from the party’s internal selection, citing irregularities with the delegates’ list, and perceptions about Hayles.
The councillors indicated at Monday’s press briefing that they will continue to serve their respective divisions as independent representatives.
They also gave an extremely critical perspective of the stewardship of party General Secretary, Dr Dayton Campbell.
Hayles, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hanover Western from 2007, was defeated in 2020 by attorney-at-law Tamika Davis of the JLP in a major upset.
After Monday’s stunning development involving the three parish councillors, General Secretary Campbell acknowledged their resignations from the party.
In a statement, he said a chairman has been selected for the Little London Division, where Myles was the party’s councillor up to Monday. That move, said Myles, was a clear indication that the party was working behind his back to oust him from the division.
In a subsequent media interview, Myles said he gathered about a week before the disclosure by Campbell, that there were moves afoot to replace him (Myles), and so, this propelled him to resign from the party.
Campbell did not confirm this in his press release relative to the councillors’ departure from the PNP.
“Already, the Little London Division has elected its new divisional chairman, and both the Sheffield and Grange Hill divisions will follow suit at their slated conferences later this month,” Campbell said then.
He said the PNP remains steadfast in its commitment to its democratic traditions, and added that it is focussed on moving forward with the organising of Westmoreland Western in accordance with the will of the people.
Dr Dayton Campbell
“Western Westmoreland recently participated in a democratic exercise to select its MP candidate. These three councillors were unsuccessful in their campaign for Mr Garfield James to be the candidate.
“The delegates of the party and the citizens of the constituency have spoken, and the party is moving forward in favour of democracy and the people’s will,” Campbell added.
Following those developments, all eyes were set on the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) meeting to see if the former PNP municipal representatives would cross over to the JLP.
That did not take place, but the three men did support a contentious motion to remove their once former PNP colleague, Danree Delancy, as deputy mayor, which saw the PNP councillors eventually losing the vote 4 – 7.
In the debate, those wanting to see the back of Delancy accused him of poor leadership in his role, accusations which he denied vehemently.
The meeting, which was also attended by Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Desmond McKenzie, was at various stages marred by slanderous verbal attacks and even indecent language from at least one PNP councillor.
A senior female law enforcer who was captured on one of the videos of the disgraceful verbal confrontation, even tried to bring calm to the meeting, as the councillors aligned to the JLP, PNP and those newly minted independent colleagues, sparred over the motion.
At the end of it all, Delancy, Councillor of the Bethel Town Division, said he was “made a sacrificial lamb” by the move to oust him as deputy mayor.
Still, he said he had no “ill will” for anyone.
“This is not the end of Delancy’s political career. After the next parish council election, I shall return here as Councillor for the Bethel Town Division,” Delancy declared.
For Myles, he was “elated” that the councillors had the confidence to “bestow” the role of deputy mayor on him, and he was eager to work alongside Mayor Bertel Moore.
The local government minister said he had mixed reactions to the meeting and the political developments, as “it is clear that some of our councillors are not au fait with the laws that govern local government.”
McKenzie argued that the steps that were taken to stall the motion were unfortunate.
Continuing, he said: “There is definitely a shift in the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation and I am hoping that this shift is for the betterment of the municipality.
“I am sure that, based on what I have seen and what I have heard, there is a determination to improve the quality of service here in Westmoreland, and I think this is the start of something positive,” declared McKenzie.
But PNP General Secretary, Dr Dayton Campbell, did not agree, and accused the former PNP councillors of colluding with the JLP “for some time now”, as well as engaging in a series of “anti-party” and “anti-people” actions.
The ex-comrades have rejected those assertions, especially those that are centred around colluding with the JLP.
“As it is now, we (the three former PNP councillors) have not had any discussion (to join the JLP),” declared Myles in a subsequent radio interview.
“We are independent. We remain independent as we speak,” he claimed, describing Campbell’s accusations of scheming with the JLP as “baseless”.
“How can you say that it’s evident that we have been colluding with the JLP? That makes sense?” Myles questioned.
“And this is the thing with (Campbell)… Someone needs to sit him down and tell him you need to take a backward step and allow the party’s process and the party’s procedures to continue,” the new deputy mayor opined.
Still, Campbell charged that, “The former PNP councillors’ support for the JLP motion is a treacherous betrayal of the trust placed in them by the good citizens of Westmoreland.”
In a statement late Thursday, the PNP general secretary also asserted that the charges of non-performance against Delancy that were raised in the motion, were baseless and spurious.
“Up to last week, Councillor Delancy enjoyed the confidence of the three recently resigned councillors; further, there has never been even a suggestion of non-performance during Delancy’s term as deputy mayor,” Campbell stated.
Continuing, he said: “The PNP stands united in condemning these trumped-up motions and the collusive actions of the three resigned councillors with their JLP counterparts.
“We call on the citizens of Westmoreland to see through this transparent political ploy and recognise it for what it is — a calculated attempt to undermine the integrity and effectiveness of the council,” Campbell urged.
Many social media users weighed into the latest events to rock the political scene in Jamaica, and the latest perceived acts of disunity in the Opposition PNP.
“Boy, Massa Mark (Mark Golding – PNP President) have so much on his plate that him own a turn against him,” said a man on Facebook.
“Then PNP want to become Government and so much division going on. How we to take them serious? Michael Manley (former PNP President and Prime Minister of Jamaica) must be turning in his grave,” said another man.
In relation to the videos showing the behaviour of the councillors at the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation meeting, a woman said, “Set of damn hooligans.
“How are we supposed to look up to these ppl? We need a change for Jamaica,” she stated.
Shared another woman: “This is a disgrace! How can leaders be acting this way and expect the country to do better? What a mess!”
Stated a man: “The fight for scarce benefits and spoils continue, but the thing is the people are the ones who suffer.”
Other persons chided the three former PNP councillors for being unpatriotic to the political organisation.
“Those councillors were never authentic PNP, so good riddance to them as #timecome for Markie G (Mark Golding) to be prime minister,” declared a popular PNP blogger.
Commented a woman: “I am happy the unpatriotic people are being removed from the party once and for all. Going with Golding!”