09 Nov The PNP is accusing the Government of Gerrymandering efforts to snatch control of St. Catherine Parish Council
The Jamaica Labour Party Government of Jamaica is attempting a process of political gerrymandering on an unprecedented and heinous scale in an effort to snatch control of St. Catherine Parish Council, the Opposition People’s National Party is charging.
The Opposition is adamant that an attempt by the JLP to make fundamental and unprecedented changes to existing electoral structures in Portmore and St. Catherine, practically on the eve of nomination day for the 2016 Local Government Election, without proper consultation with the people, will be robustly opposed.
The People’s National Party is not necessary opposed to the separation of the municipalities, but the more important issue is the lack of needed and proper consultative processes and the obvious and disturbingly politically motivated plan behind such a hastily concocted move. “It is very disturbing that fundamental changes to the electoral process are being proposed at the 11th hour, especially without consultation and engagement with the citizens to be impacted,” a PNP spokesperson said.
“In addition, to propose such a fundamental change two days before Nomination Day for the very elections that would be impacted by this proposed change is disrespectful of Jamaica’s democratic processes.
“Furthermore, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica had up to today not been consulted nor been involved in this process, which is inconsistent with the practice and convention of dealing with electoral matters since 1979. Now we are told the ECJ is mandated – ordered – to ram the changes through in time for Nomination Day on Friday.”
The PNP contends that this process must involve the citizens of St. Catherine, with effective public education on the issues and its implications as well as enable them to express their views on such fundamental change. This was the way it was done when the Portmore Municipality was being established in 2003.
“We strongly oppose and reject the manner in which this is being proposed,” the PNP Spokesperson said.
“This is gerrymandering of the most heinous kind and we demand that the attempt be abandoned. It is an act that will change fundamentally how the municipalities are run and change the representation structure without consultation with the taxpayers of Portmore and St. Catherine.
“The People’s National Party always respects the will of the people and will be so guided in our advocacy on this matter. Going about such fundamental changes in this manner sets a bad precedent for governance. The JLP Government should be minded to engage the people in a genuinely participatory way always.”
These changes would separate the Portmore Municipality from the St. Catherine Municipality and remove the Councillors who sit as part of the Portmore Municipality from sitting on the St. Catherine Municipality/Local Authority. The presence of the democratically elected PNP Portmore Councillors currently gives the PNP control of the Parish Council.
Clearly the JLP wants to remove the democratically elected PNP councillors of Portmore from the St. Catherine Parish Council chamber and gerrymander into a majority
This is despite the fact that Portmore is geographically part of St. Catherine and that there are many specialized services that Portmore relies on St. Catherine Parish Council to provide.
Only on Monday (November 7, 2016) did the Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, Phillip Paulwell, received notice of a Bill to be tabled and debated the following day, Tuesday November 8, in Parliament.
This Bill seeks to separate the two municipalities.
It has become plain that the Government has every intention to bulldoze through this heinous gerrymandering, regardless of the harm to democracy.
Neither the citizens of Portmore, nor those of St. Catherine have been consulted and initially not even the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) was initially consulted.
However, now the ECJ has been mandated to approve the change without delay.
When the Opposition raised vehement objections to the content of the Bill, the Government immediately backed away and said the Bill would be withdrawn. It was then said that Parliament would be in recess until December, after the Local Government Elections.
By Tuesday evening, the Bill was back on the table and the House is been called back to deal with it tomorrow (Wednesday Nov 9, 2016).