Let's mark the 37th anniversary of the October 1980 elections with peaceful polls

Sunday, October 29, 2017

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Jamaica has had an outstanding record of uninterrupted elections since Universal Adult Suffrage was introduced in 1944. This is, by any measure, a proud achievement and a sign of the health of our democracy.

On the minus side, our elections have involved bloody violence, most notably the murderous campaign leading up to the October 30, 1980 general election. During that seven-month rampage, over 800 people were reported killed.

While the names of many or most of those who lost their lives were not easily recognised, the period was also marked by the high-profile killing of Mr Roy McGann, a candidate of the People's National Party (PNP), in controversial circumstances still unexplained today.

Thankfully, violence has never prevented an election from being held nor has it been used to overturn the expressed will of the people, as has happened in numerous other countries. We have a tradition of settling our electoral disputes, although the ruling in the Aston King versus Basil Buck case was not handed down until Parliament had been prorogued for the next general election.

Tomorrow — Monday, October, 30, 2017 — the 37th anniversary of the 1980 elections will be marked, wittingly or unwittingly, by three by-elections in St Mary South Eastern, St Andrew South Western and St Andrew Southern, all held by the PNP.

No one is expecting any real contest in the two St Andrew seats where the PNP has proven to be electorally unassailable. It will take something of cataclysmic proportions to deny their candidates — Dr Angela Brown Burke (St Andrew South Western) and Mr Mark Golding (St Andrew Southern) — victory.

Things are different, however, in St Mary where the last election was won by a mere five seats.

The country is relieved that, one or two skirmishes aside, the campaign has been largely peaceful, highlighted mostly by squabbles over the nationality of PNP candidate Dr Shane “Sugar Shane” Alexis, who is facing the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Dr Norman “Dunn Deal” Dunn.

All political activists of both the JLP and the PNP must pledge to make this an exceptionally peaceful election day, and one to be remembered for celebrating our democracy, by respecting the right of others to voice their support for their party without intimidation.

Electors must be tolerant of any delays on the part of officials managing the elections or mishaps with the system, remembering that they are doing the best they can, often in difficult circumstances.

At the end of the day, the losers must congratulate the winners and winners must celebrate without humiliating the losers. We all have to live together in harmony after the votes are counted and all have to work with the new members of parliament for the good of the constituencies and the country.

Fortunately, we have two excellent candidates in St Mary, two young men who have a history of community service behind them. Whoever is elected member of parliament will be an asset to Jamaica.

Let's send a message back through time to October 30, 1980, saying 'never again'.




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