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South Manchester’s Stewart insists he has a political future


FORMER People’s National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament for Manchester Southern Michael Stewart has said that he will not be stepping away from representational politics following his general election defeat of September 2020.

Stewart, who was vying for his second term, lost by 890 votes to the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Robert Chin.

“I still have something to offer to the people of S outh Manchester and the nation as a whole. I am still the caretaker candidate for the constituency. I have been moving around, [but] stifled by COVID in terms of having meetings,” Stewart told the Jamaica Observer last week.

The educator and former principal said that he has been engaging the constituents virtually.

“We have been having meetings on Zoom. I have been visiting various communities and speaking to the people,” he said.

Stewart disclosed that some constituents are asking him not to leave politics.

“They are saying ‘Michael you need to hang on to complete the work you have done. We have now seen where you have made significant contributions to the development of the constituency, the people’s lives,and we believe that you are the best – in terms of this time – to continue to do the work,’ ” he said.

He boasted about roadwork rehabilitation which he said was undertaken when he was MP.

“I have done a tremendous amount of work, in terms of roadwork, with the limited resources that I got; I was able to fix some 20 roads. I was able to interact with the schools as an educator, giving scholarships and other education-related material to all my schools,” said the former Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) president.

When the Sunday Observer asked Stewart what went wrong in his campaign, he said that people who would traditionally support the PNP were paid to stay home on election day.

“We knew what went on September 3 [last year] in terms of a number of allegations with people being bribed to stay home, and all those things have all gone awry,” he claimed.

He also pointed to the pandemic and the swing towards the JLP as contributing factors.

“The election was called during the pandemic and most of our supporters are middle-aged to seniors, so many of them stayed away from the polls. We did have a few of our young people who also stayed away,” he said.

“I believe that if we had a more aggressive one-to-one campaign, but the COVID stifled our turnout and there was a general swing against the party,” he added.

Stewart criticised his opponent, Chin, for not being “present” in the constituency which spans many communities from Porus to Alligator Pond and New Port to Spur Tree.

“People are now seeing the true colours of the new MP…They are not seeing him. They have not heard him in Parliament or making representation on their behalf,” said Stewart.

“People have been calling me left, right and centre [from] all parts of the constituency and saying that they are sorry for not coming out, because many people took it for granted that it is a PNP seat,” he added,

He said Chin’s Easter bun distribution of politically branded buns was distasteful and disgraceful.

“One of the things that went down very poorly was the Easter bun that he [Chin] had wrapped in his colours along with candidates for parish council. People have rejected it outrightly as being disgraceful and distasteful,” said Stewart.

He is concerned that enough attention isn’t being given to the extension of the east-west leg of the highway from May Pen to Williamsfield.

A section of the highway is in south Manchester.

“The constituency has gone back flat. They are not seeing a representative as it relates to the issues impacting the constituency. The new highway that is being done, the bauxite mining which has impacted their lives. We look at the agricultural situation where the farmers have been impacted in New Forest. They are not getting the assistance there,” said Stewart.

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