Othneil Lawrence, who has stepped aside to make possible the endorsement of Ruel Reid as JLP Candidate for North West St Ann, says he did it out of love for party and nation.
Mr Lawrence says he has not heard from the party’s hierarchy but considered it important to throw his support behind Senator Reid. “I gave my full support to Ruel Reid. Whatever lawful that it takes for the JLP to win the next election I’ll do,” he told Jamaica Today.
It is widely felt in the constituency that Mr Lawrence, a businessman, did not have the support of the JLP hierarchy in his second losing bid for the seat in 2016. He first won the seat in 2007 and lost it to Dr Dayton Campbell in 2011. Dr Campbell continues to represent the seat in the Parliament.
On Sunday, April 22, Education, Youth and Information Minister, Senator Ruel Reid received the endorsement of the registered delegates of the party at a special conference at Cardiff Hotel, Runaway Bay, St Ann in the constituency.
Earlier this year, Mr Reid made known to the JLP his interest in representing the party in the NW St Ann constituency. Mr Lawrence remained caretaker and was known to maintain an interest in running again but was thought to have little support from the JLP hierarchy.
Attorney and former MP for South West St Ann, Ernie Smith, had also recently made his interest known. Mr Smith’s interest was soon withdrawn as the party hierarchy and local executives told him his candidacy would not be supported.
Sources told Jamaica Today that Senator Reid and his team members had approached Neil Lawrence, wooing his support. Two weeks ago Jamaica Today reported that Reid had stated he had the support of Lawrence and Smith and would soon announce his candidacy at a press conference.
On Sunday at the JLP NW St Ann special delegates meeting at Cardiff Hotel, Mr Lawrence turned up, accompanied by his wife and children at the meeting and was warmly greeted by delegates. “It was touching. There was a great display of appreciation for me,” he said. Mr Lawrence said the hierarchy had not shown as much appreciation “as the people on the ground and the delegates.”
In the closed-door meeting, Lawrence gave his full support to Senator Reid. “I’ve given of myself for the party and the constituency and I don’t want anything now to derail the party’s and government’s plans.”
Mr Lawrence said he had received commendations from people inside and out of the constituency for his action in stepping back “in spite of so much support on the ground.”
He said the smooth transition to Ruel Reid was historic. “The JLP has made history in this constituency. They have never seen a transition like this. All unity.”
He said he had spoken to workers and told them of his intention. “I hope people on the ground will heed my call for cohesiveness,” Lawrence said.