Sat | Apr 4, 2020

Natalie vs Natalie - Campbell-Rodriques to challenge Neita in St Catherine North Central

Published:Thursday | February 20, 2020 | 12:27 AMPaul Clarke and Ruddy Mathison/Gleaner Writers
Natalie Campbell-Rodriques
Natalie Neita
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Natalie Campbell-Rodriques is tapped to become the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) standard-bearer for the St Catherine North Central constituency ahead of the next general election.

Campbell-Rodriques is a shoo-in for the position, The Gleaner understands, and is expected to take the slate against the incumbent three-time People’s National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament Natalie Neita.

“On a mission for the people’s business. #TheRealNatalie for North Central St Catherine #JLP#Prosperity,” was how Campbell-Rodriques presented herself in a post on her Facebook page.

She is awaiting confirmation from the powerful JLP central executive while doing groundwork as she prepares an assault on the PNP’s stranglehold on the constituency that changed hands from K.D. Knight to the incumbent.

“That constituency is one that needs some love. We still have areas in the constituency where, in 2020, the people are forced to steal electricity,” she told The Gleaner yesterday.

Campbell-Rodriques will take the reins from government senator Kerensia Morrison, who lost to Neita by 1,306 votes in the 2016 general election.

She said she would be paying attention to the plight of the people, citing communities in the Angels division as among areas without electricity and piped water, forcing residents to indulge in the illegal abstraction.

“These people are not stealing electrical power because they want to. We just have not granted them the dignity they deserve. When I talk to the people, they told me they really do not want to steal the electricity, but that they are left with no choice.

“What has happened is that it’s been taken for granted that the seat cannot be won by a different party, which leads to an attitude of arrogance, and no politician should ever, including myself, reach that stage.”

The JLP last won the seat in 1983 when the Opposition boycotted the poll.

Campbell-Rodriques, an adviser to Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, has raised alarm over the levels of joblessness in St Catherine North Central when the country was experiencing record-low unemployment.

Campbell-Rodriques, who is a married mother of two, also served as a director for the organisation Youths for Jamaica and was once the community relations attaché at the Jamaican Embassy in Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, councillor for the Bog Walk division of the St Catherine Municipal Corporation, Peter Abrahams, admitted that he was disappointed at being passed over by the party leadership.

“I remain loyal to the party and will do whatever it takes to ensure a win for the party,” Abrahams told The Gleaner.

“I have done a lot of work in the constituency, and a lot of support has accrued for my candidacy. I know a lot of supporters wanted me to run, but the party thought otherwise, so at this time I will respect the decision of the selection committee and go out there to do my best,” said Abrahams.

A prominent JLP worker who requested anonymity said that Abrahams has been the de facto caretaker since the last general election and considered it surprising that he was not being given the green light.

“I think the party treated Mr Abrahams bad. There was no one we could talk to after the general elections. He stuck with us and addressed our issues. He deserves to be the candidate,” the party worker observed.

Abrahams was ditched by the party shortly before the 2016 general election.

The next general election is constitutionally due in 2020 but is expected to be called later this year.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com