Ful­ton gets the charge

Small farm­ers is­sue warn­ing to new JAS pres­i­dent

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Christo­pher Serju/ Gleaner Writer

WITHIN MIN­UTES of be­ing de­clared win­ner of Wed­nes­day’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion for the Ja­maica Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety (JAS), Len­worth Ful­ton was on the re­ceiv­ing end of un­so­licited ad­vice about how to run the um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion for which he takes ad­min­is­tra­tive con­trol in Septem­ber.

“Make sure seh you fix up the Den­bigh Show­ground,” one farmer charged, ad­vice that was quickly fol­lowed by a not-so­sub­tle re­minder about the fick­le­ness of hu­man na­ture. “You make sure that the voice of the small farmer is heard, you hear, sir? Or else we will vote you out, just as easy as how we vo­teed you in.”

Ful­ton, who cam­paigned un­der the theme of ‘Hon­esty, In­tegrity, Trans­parency, Ac­count­abil­ity’, has promised, among other things, to lobby Govern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor for much-needed im­prove­ments in the wel­fare of farm fam­i­lies and, by ex­ten­sion, the agri­cul­tural labour force. He com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing is­sues such as health in­sur­ance and pen­sion ben­e­fits.

Ful­ton, a grad­u­ate of the Ja­maica School of Agri­cul­ture (now Col­lege of Agri­cul­ture, Sci­ence and Ed­u­ca­tion) and Tuskegee Univer­sity in the United States with a diploma in gen­eral agri­cul­ture and a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in eco­nomics, re­spec­tively, has promised to take the 123year-old or­gan­i­sa­tion into the 21st cen­tury.

Del­e­gates of the JAS re­sponded favourably to his prom­ise of trans­for­ma­tion by giv­ing him 254 votes, com­pared to Glen­don Har­ris’ 81. Den­ton Al­varanga was elected first vi­cepres­i­dent with 258 votes, with only 70 favour­ing Hugh John­son for the post. Two hun­dred and thirty-six gave their votes to Owen Dobson for the post of sec­ond vice-pres­i­dent, with Dr Hugh Lam­bert polling 88.

The elec­tions, which were con­ducted by the Elec­toral Of­fice of Ja­maica, with Act­ing Di­rec­tor of Elec­tions Glasspole Brown on hand to over­see pro­ceed­ings, en­coun­tered a num­ber of hic­cups, but noth­ing out of the or­di­nary, ac­cord­ing to Brown.

“We were con­tracted by the JAS to con­duct the elec­tion. The count­ing of the bal­lots was done elec­tron­i­cally, but the vot­ing was the nor­mal man­ual vot­ing. There were some is­sues that we en­coun­tered, but we were able to work through those. [One such is­sue was] the late start in terms of the JAS re­leas­ing the del­e­gates for vot­ing,” he told The Gleaner.

IT WAS a fiery 123rd an­nual gen­eral meet­ing of the Ja­maica Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety (JAS) on Wed­nes­day in the main au­di­to­rium at the Den­bigh Show­ground. From the get-go, it was clear that the farm­ers were not leav­ing any ques­tions unan­swered – from the han­dling of fi­nan­cial mat­ters to the elec­tion of the new pres­i­dent, who would be head­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

A cane farmer from Claren­don who re­ferred to him­self as ‘Watch­dog’ com­plained that af­ter he took sick, he had ex­pected some sort of loan sup­port from the JAS. But, on “reading the pa­pers”, he learnt that the money that should have been avail­able to farm­ers to ac­cess loans was used up by the work­ers.

“And mi un­der­stand sey that the man who was in charge at the time, Govern­ment never do nut­ten bout it ... and now, he is ap­ply­ing to run as the head of this JAS ... . You can an­swer dat ques­tion fi mi, sah? Is that so?” he said, throw­ing the ques­tion to CEO of the JAS Christo­pher Emanuel, who was fa­cil­i­tat­ing ques­tions deal­ing with the fi­nan­cial re­port.

At Emanuel’s re­sponse that he could not an­swer that ques­tion, Watch­dog be­came more ag­i­tated.

“Whey you sey, you can tell mem­ber what ques­tion fi ask? Farm­ers, unno need to tek charge,” he said to loud cheers from fel­low farm­ers at the meet­ing.

Emanuel in­ter­jected, ad­vis­ing the irate del­e­gate that there was a place and time for ev­ery­thing, but was soon cut off by pleas from farm­ers, who said that the meet­ing was the last time that they would be get­ting an op­por­tu­nity to air their grouses.

Watch­dog, de­spite the many at­tempts to get him to give way to oth­ers who were in line, re­fused to budge un­til he had both can­di­dates – Glen­don Har­ris and Len­worth Ful­ton – face the ques­tion he was ask­ing.

At­tempts to shut him down earned the ire of the rest of farm­ers in the meet­ing, with them shout­ing, “Let him ask, bring them out!”

He fi­nally got his way when the two men came on stage. He then asked the ques­tion: “Who was in charge of RADA (the Ru­ral Agri­cul­ture De­vel­op­ment Author­ity)?” to which Ful­ton re­sponded that he served as CEO from May 2013 to May 2016.

“Well, a him mi a talk!” Watch­dog shouted. “So, are you coming to run JAS like yuh run RADA?”

Ful­ton re­sponded by list­ing all his achieve­ments dur­ing his three years at the helm of RADA.

The JAS also came un­der fire for the lim­ited num­ber of per­sons who were al­lowed to vote from each di­vi­sion, as well as what farm­ers said was the JAS’s lack of care for the plight they were fac­ing.

FUL­TON

CHRISTO­PHER SERJU PHOTO

Hugh Lyon (left), the long­est-serv­ing di­rec­tor on the Ja­maica Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety board of di­rec­tors, gets as­sis­tance from Glen­don Har­ris and An­drea Brown in check­ing for his name on the list of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers. The 88-year-old, who has served as a di­rec­tor for 30 years, was de­nied the op­por­tu­nity to vote be­cause his name was not on the list of elec­tors.

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