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 Enid Bennett died early yesterday morning at the Andrews Memorial Hospital in Kingston, at the age of 86. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)—

FORMER government minister, St Catherine Member of Parliament (MP) and deputy leader of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), Enid Maude Bennett, CD, died early yesterday morning at the Andrews Memorial Hospital in Kingston.

Bennett served just over 30 years as MP for St Catherine Central, and eventually St Catherine West Central, until she retired from representational politics in 1997. She died at age 86 after a brief illness.

The JLP, in a release yesterday, extended “deepest condolences” to her family. The party’s general secretary, Dr Horace Chang, said that “she will be missed by many persons”.

“The JLP expresses its sincere condolences to her family, loved ones and all the lives that have been touched by her giving and humble spirit,” he added.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange, who now represents the St Catherine Central constituency, said that Bennett, who held the record as “the longest continuously serving female MP”, enjoyed the love and devotion of her constituents, “who kept returning her to power in election after election even against national swings”.

Enid Bennett

Enid Bennett

Bennett started serving the JLP at a young age, as a branch delegate before joining the staff of then MP for St Catherine Central and Minister of Home Affairs Roy McNeill, as his personal and constituency secretary.

She was later elected as a councilor for the Sligoville division in the St Catherine Parish Council, before replacing McNeill as MP for St Catherine Central in 1967, when he moved to St Catherine Eastern.

  Bennett went on to win seven consecutive general elections – two in St Catherine Central and five more in St Catherine West Central — setting a record for female MPs of 30 continuous years as an MP in the House of Representatives.

Bennett was also minister of state in the Ministry of Local Government between 1980 and 1982, and minister of state in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security between 1982 and 1989.

She was elected as a deputy leader of the JLP in 1978, replacing current Speaker of the House of Representatives Pearnel Charles. She was the only female deputy leader of the party.

In an interview with the media in 2012, Bennett admitted that despite her long service in Parliament, she was forced to survive on her pension from the Government. However, she insisted that her job was to serve her constituents, which, she admitted, was costly.

She said, in the interview, that she was advised as a young candidate by the late national hero and founder of the JLP, Sir Alexander Bustamante:

“Little girl, I don’t want you to win an election only, I want you to also work for the people.


Minister Grange said: “Miss Bennett would always remark that although the resources available to her were not enough to meet the needs of her constituents, whether she was in Government or Opposition, they continued to support her because she always had an open door to receive them,” Grange said.

Bennett used “I promise to serve” as her campaign slogan, and, according to Grange, “she strongly believed that it was of the greatest importance that political representatives keep close to the people they represent”.

— By Balford Henry

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