SO Audley Shaw did not sign the Jamaica Labour Party internal peace agreement with Andrew Holness, up to the time of writing. He says he will not do so until he sees the voters' list for the JLP leadership elections scheduled for November 10. As far as I am concerned, that is fair enough.
But the last time I heard serious rumblings about voters' lists was in 1983 when the People's National Party refused to contest the snap election, called by then Prime Minister Edward Seaga, because the national voters' list was three years old. And the time before that was in 1967 when Norman Manley complained that more than 50,000 people had been left off the voters' list.
Indeed the parish council elections of 1969 were held on the same voters' list as the 1967 General Election. A voters' list was taken up late in 1969, and that was the list that was used for the 1972 General Election.
In those days the minimum voting age was 21, which meant that one had to be at least 23-plus to vote in the 1972 General Election. The PNP protested, but to no avail. At that time, Michael Manley led the PNP and Hugh Shearer was the prime minister of the JLP Government. In any event, the PNP won the 1972 elections by a landslide and Michael Manley became prime minister.
After the 1976 elections, which saw the PNP retain power, Edward Seaga, as JLP leader and Opposition leader, complained that there were irregularities in the elections and pushed for electoral reform. He has revealed in recent years that he timed his campaign for electoral reform with that of the PNP Government seeking a new IMF agreement, because such questions come to the fore with the IMF when negotiations are taking place.
So Michael Manley, as prime minister, implemented some serious electoral reforms that made provisions for an Electoral Advisory Commission, which had the power to oversee the election rather than the elected Government of the day as was previously the case. Yet, the same Edward Seaga called the1983 General Election on a three-year-old list.
Very few understand the importance of the voters' lists in national elections. The campaign by the political parties begins there. The first move is to canvass potential voters to get enumerated. The second is to get the party supporters to vote on election day. This is why I have often said that elections are won on election day.
And that is one of the reasons Portia Simpson (she wasn't yet Miller) did not call the elections the minute she became prime minister in 2006. The voters' list was not ready, and the party had not yet gathered enough funds for the campaign. Popularity and goodwill cannot get people on the voters' list.
I am reminded of the game on TV, where the winners are asked to remove items from the shelves of a supermarket in the space of a minute (or is it five?) and the run as fast as they can and throw as many items into the trolley, which is their prize. Isn't this unfair to an elderly winner who cannot move fast?
In the same way, general elections in Jamaica are won by whichever party gets more people into the polling stations between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. in a majority of seats; and the party that does is the winner of the election.
What a pity that Herbert Thompson was forced to resign as chairman of the Electoral Advisory Committee. Yes, given Jamaica's partisan polarisation, he should not have been offered the award, and having been offered he should not have taken it.
I recall that Sir Howard Cooke, as governor general, made a speech at an event of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the PNP in 1998. There was some talk about it, but no one asked Sir Howard to resign.
But the JLP could have had an awards ceremony for their 70th anniversary and given Herbert Thompson an award to even it out. And, truth be told, Thompson got caught in the middle of a "dogfight" between Andrew Holness and Audley Shaw, where both tried to outdo the other in calls for Thompson's resignation.
But the PNP has too often turned what should be impartial into partisan matters. All the way back in 1974, when the late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania made a state visit to Jamaica and was invited to speak at the PNP conference. And the same went for the late Samora Machel in the late 1970s, who was also on a state visit. There is nothing wrong with inviting foreign dignitaries to a party conference, but not if they are on a state visit. Jamaica is a multi-party democracy, not like some countries where there may even be more democractic than Jamaica -- but in the context of a one-party system. (If you make a study of some one-party states you will understand what I mean by their having more democracy.) But because Jamaica is a multi-party democracy, inviting someone to a party conference is a very sensitive issue.
Mr Portmore is dead
The work of George Lee to ensure that Portmore became a municipality is to be lauded. For his efforts he was elected its mayor two times out of three, the first time being ten years ago. George Lee first came to public attention in 1964 when he was dismissed from the government-owned Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (now defunct).
The story goes that Lee was dismissed for including in a newscast that the Government had refused to raise the pay of staff. At the time, Edward Seaga was minister of development and welfare, under whose portfolio JBC fell. So there was the famous JBC strike led by Michael Manley.
For all his work, George Lee deserves the Order of Jamaica.
PS: I would like to ask my readers two questions. First, if a newspaper columnist can produce a published piece, entitled 'The fifteenth parish', written more than 20 years ago to the effect that Portmore should have its own mayor and council, should he at least get mentioned? I know a columnist that can in fact produce such a column. My second question is: Can you guess who?