LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS 2003
On June 19 Jamaicans go to the Polls to elect Local Government Representatives. These Local Government Elections will be historic from two perspectives. First, in the newly created Municipality of Portmore, we will have for the first time the direct election of the Mayor by the people of the Municipality. Municipalities are not entirely new in Jamaica, but the direct election of the Mayor is. In this regard, Jamaica is now following what is common practice in several parts of the world.
Second, in Eastern St Andrew the Electronic Identification of the Voter and Ballot Issuing System will be Pilot tested in the two local government divisions of that constituency. In this regard, Jamaica will not be following the rest of the world but leading it. For the first time anywhere in the world a biometric character, fingerprints will be used to identify electors by matching live fingerprints with prints taken at the time of registration as electors. The circumstances that have forced us to implement this solution are not ones that we can be proud of. However, we can take pride in the imaginative and precedent-making solution that has been developed.
The October 16th General Elections marked a turning point in our electoral history. We in the Electoral Advisory Committee, EAC, and the Electoral Office of Jamaica, EOJ, are preparing for the Local Government Elections just as thoroughly and as seriously as we did the General Elections. We do not see this Local Government Election as being any less than the General Elections. Every exercise of the sovereignty of the people, through the election of their representatives, must be treated with the utmost respect and the most efficient execution.
Nomination Day on May 30 went as it should, peacefully and efficiently. We expect no less of Election Day. To date, the political campaigning has been proceeding in an appropriate manner. We expect it to continue in like manner. We wish to remind Candidates and populace that the Law specifically forbids elections to take place in circumstances of open violence and social disturbance. The EAC can, therefore, be depended upon to request the appropriate authorities to enforce the Law, should circumstances arise. We will be as firm as we were in the General Elections.
We wish to remind Candidates, that now they have been duly nominated, they do not only have to conduct themselves in accordance with the Law but ensure that their agents do likewise. The Law prescribes that Candidates be held accountable for the action of their agents.
As we reminded Candidates in the meetings we had with them, the conditions for voiding Elections through applications made by the Constituted Authority to the Electoral Court, are much more easily reached in Local Government Elections than in General Elections. This is because four of the five conditions are numerical, and while the Voters List is basically the same the number of constituencies in the General Elections is 60 compared to 227 Electoral Divisions. No candidate will be allowed to win by fraud. Hence, investment in illegal activities is a waste of time, energy, and resources.
The Electoral Office is fully prepared for the Local Government Elections. All supplies have been acquired. Election Day Workers have been recruited and trained. Polling Station locations are settled. All logistical arrangements have been made. Following a thorough review of the conduct of the Polls in the General Elections, we took note of shortcoming and have taken appropriate steps to prevent these shortcomings to be repeated. We, therefore, expect that these Local Government Elections will be better run than the General Elections. We have a most able and competent Director of Elections that is supported by a great team at the Electoral Office. We have worked closely with the Political parties and expect their full cooperation, at an even higher level than in the General Elections.
All the circumstances are therefore in place for all duly registered electors to go to the polls and express their preferences with respect to who will represent them in Local Government. Traditionally, Local Government Elections have been marked by low voter turnout. Yet Local Government is a government that is closest to the people and to the electorate.
We, therefore, urge all registered electors to go to the polls on June 19 and discharge their democratic responsibilities. This is an age in which Rights occupy a very prominent place and there are daily demands to respect various Rights. Each right carries with it a corresponding responsibility. The rights of Citizens are accompanied by the responsibilities of Citizens. There is no higher responsibility of Citizens than to take responsibility for the Government by participating in the electoral process. To all those demanding their Rights, we wish to remind you of your responsibilities and in particular your responsibility to elector those who will form the Government.
Check the Voters List to ensure that you are on it. Be guided by the Voters Cards that we are mailing to each elector to tell you where your polling station is. Recover you Identification Card for the safe play that you have put it. Remember your personal details that you gave to the Electoral Office when you registered. Then go to the Polls on June 19 and exercise the franchise that our forebears fought so hard to gain for us.
June 2, 2003