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Jan 22, 2015

P.U.P. Leader Responds to Barnett Endorsement

On Wednesday, the U.D.P., all hyped up and bursting with enthusiasm, announced the entry of Doctor Carla Barnett into electoral politics. Barnett is no stranger to the public service, and has also gained recognition regionally, though overt politicking is something new for her. Flanked by Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Deputy Gaspar Vega, Barnett made her debut with the full support of a packed house of U.D.P. supporters from near and far. It was a great show as far as aesthetics go, but Barnett now prepares to take on P.U.P. leader Francis Fonseca in Freetown. Barnett had her day, so this morning we went looking for Fonseca, who certainly had his say. Mike Rudon has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Dr. Carla Barnett, the U.D.P.’s choice in Freetown, is certainly no stranger to P.U.P. leader Francis Fonseca. They worked together between 2003 and 2008, while she served as Financial Secretary for a time, under the People’s United Party. Right up front this morning, the P.U.P. leader expressed great respect for her many accomplishments both regionally and locally, but just as upfront, he says that’s not going to mean much on the ground in Freetown.

 

Francis Fonseca

Francis Fonseca, P.U.P. Leader

“I think the most frequent question I’ve gotten since the announcement yesterday is who is Carla Barnett? That’s the truth. Most people in Freetown certainly don’t know who this person is. But that’s the challenge of politics. She has every right and every opportunity to walk the streets and try to get to know the people of Freetown. As you rightly pointed out, my confidence comes from having a long established relationship with the people from Freetown, which now goes back over twelve years since I was first elected.”

 

While respect is one thing, Fonseca and Barnett are now political foes and in today’s charged climate that means that war has been declared, so to speak. And the verbal swords have already been drawn, first by Barnett on Wednesday.

 

Carla Barnett

Dr. Carla Barnett, Endorsed as U.D.P. Freetown Candidate [File: January 21st, 2014]

“Yes there is a vacuum in Freetown, but the vacuum is on both sides if I can be blunt. There is not a lot of presence from the current representative in Freetown, and when you talk to the people of Freetown that is what they say…that’s what they say.”

 

Francis Fonseca

“She obviously doesn’t know what she’s talking about. In fact I was told that she was visiting homes…she claims to have been walking the streets of Freetown when in fact she was walking the streets of Caribbean Shores, so she apparently didn’t even know the division she is preparing to run in. Because certain streets you have half the street is Caribbean Shores and half the street is Freetown. We have a lot of that in our constituency. So she didn’t even know where she was.”

 

Barnett on Wednesday stated boldly that she is in it to win it, and has no doubt she can because Fonseca’s victories in the area have been marginal. Fonseca today pleaded guilty as charged, but with an explanation.

 

Francis Fonseca

“The 2008 election as you know was a red tide. That speaks for itself. We survived that tide. In 2012 I had just become the leader of the Party so I was focused on organizing the Party, travelling across the country and trying for form a P.U.P. government. So I didn’t spend the time that I needed to in the Freetown Division. But the people understood and gave me their support. Obviously I wanted it to be at a much greater margin of victory. And yes we have done a lot of work since the 2012 election. Our organization is stronger. I’ve spent more time in the area and we will ensure absolutely that we have not only a victory but a very convincing victory in the next elections.”

 

Fonseca has promised to play nice, because he’s a nice guy and has great respect for Barnett. But make no mistake…there’s no great affection between the two – though Fonseca seemed today to almost be grateful to the U.D.P. for giving him a pass where his opponent is concerned.

 

Francis Fonseca

“We will have an overwhelming victory in Freetown. In fact, as many people said to me…you finally got a break yesterday. All of my opponents have been very formidable in different ways. In the last election it was just money. Lee Mark had nothing else to offer, it was just money. And he spent over two million dollars in Freetown, and with that he was not able to overcome my organization and my campaign. You know, as I said earlier I want to be nice to Dr. Barnett. I believe she is a good woman and I respect her, and I certainly admire her long career in public service, but she has made a big mistake coming into the Freetown division.”

 

Mistake or not, Fonseca says that he is hopeful that the next time Barnett goes on the ground to campaign, she at least gets her area right and does so in the correct constituency. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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