Tomorrow is Nomination Day. Election Day is set for October 16th. The EAC and the EOJ, working with the political parties and their leaders, have sought to overcome many of the weaknesses that existed in our electoral system. While the system is not perfect, we have accomplished the following:
Produced the largest and cleanest Voters List in the history of the country.
- Settled the location of all polling stations based on agreed standards.
- Mailed voters guide to electors advising them of the polling stations where they should vote.
- Established a Web Site where persons can check if they are on the Voters List and, if they are, where to vote.
- Distributed Voter ID Cards to every elector who was available to receive their card.
- Recruited and trained a high calibre of Election Day Workers and had the Law amended to have Election Day Workers vote on the same day as the military and the police.
- Instituted an additional means of identifying electors on Election Day.
- Created a manual that has been distributed to every member of the Security Forces concerning the Law and their role in enforcing it on Election Day.
- Created and distributed a similar manual for all Candidates.
- Established the Election Centre to act as a clearinghouse and focal point of coordination and conflict resolution.
- Worked closely with CAFFEE with respect to local observers of the elections.
- Invited international observers both to vet the reforms we have put in place as well as to observe the elections.
We are confident that the system now in place is sound and fair. Both the Carter Centre and the Political Division of the United Nations audited the system and endorsed the work that we have done. In fact, the United Nations Team wrote that the system we have put in place meets international standards.
No matter how good the electoral system is on paper, for that system to work as it should, in reality, requires that everybody play his or her part. We all share the responsibility to make the electoral system work, as it should.
The General Elections are being held in Heritage Week. In the name of our National Heroes and Heroine, and all of our forbearers whose sacrifices have brought us freedom and self-determination as a nation I urge all of us to resolve to do our duty in these elections.
- Every duly registered elector should exercise your right and vote.
- Every Candidate should abide by the Law and ethical principles in seeking support.
- Every party worker or supporter should respect the rights of others to free expression of their political preferences.
- Every Election Day Worker and member of the Security Forces should carry out their responsibilities competently, impartially, fairly and courageously.
- Every community leader from deacon to don should exercise their influence in support of what is right and just.
The world has changed. No longer does a particular lineage, clan or family own the Government and pass it down to their sons or daughters in succeeding generations. Emperors, kings, queens, princes, chiefs, sultans, grand dukes and caliphs are relics of a past era. In today’s world, it is the people that are sovereign. The sovereign people elect the government with a mandate to serve them. Elections are the means through which those elected to serve account to the people for their stewardship.
For the most part elections in Jamaica, especially in the rural areas, have followed the democratic ideals. However, some people in urban centres have indulged in malpractices that have corrupted the electoral processes. It is of the utmost importance that in the elections to be held on Wednesday, October 16, 2002 we reverse this trend and set things right.
When we started the preparation for these general elections early in 2001 the common word on the streets was that the election would be the bloodiest in Jamaica’s history surpassing even 1980. We refused to accept this pessimistic and fatalistic forecast. Instead, we have worked to achieve the opposite. Today we stand on the threshold of the 2002 elections being the most peaceful and the best in our history.
Let there be no mistake, to conduct elections that they meet the ideals of democracy is not an easy task. Even mature democracies are discovering this fact to their great dismay and embarrassment. It is imperative therefore that this little country Jamaica show to the world that we can meet the high standards demanded by the democratic process. Through the World Junior Games, we showed the world that we could put on a great athletic meet. Lets us now show the world that we can mount a great election.
Remember Jamaica is bigger than every one of us. Jamaica demands and deserves the best from all of us. We often sing the opening lines of the second stanza of our National Anthem:
Teach us true respect for all
Stir response to duty’s call.
The time to translate these words into reality is now. Let us all keep uppermost in our minds that we are not only supporters or sympathizers of the UPP, JLP, NJA, PNP or no party at all but above all, we are Jamaicans. Let us all show true respect for all irrespective of whether on not others hold to political views or preferences that are similar to ours.
Let us all respond to duty’s call to determine the future of our country. This is what the elections are really about. It is not just about who should have the power to rule. Rather is it about what those who are elected should do with the power given to them by the sovereign people. We need to understand this as our sacred duty to our country. In the secret of our own hearts, we must individually decide what is best for our country and vote accordingly.
I pray that God would guide us and keep us as we perform our duty to our country.