Need for great care during electioneering

Need for great care during electioneering

Monday, August 17, 2020

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Bar owners in Trinidad and Tobago late last week blamed political parties for careless behaviour during the recent election campaign which, they felt, helped to trigger a large spike in COVID-19 infections there.

It was a case of bar owners telling the T&T political leadership to clear the beam from their own eye before pointing fingers.

In Jamaica, Government spokesmen, not least Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, have stridently spoken of the need for operators of entertainment centres, churches, etc, to show utmost responsibility in light of the COVID-19 threat.

Jamaicans have been told that masks should be worn, and social/physical distancing protocols maintained in order to prevent spread of the lethal novel coronavirus.

Indeed, action has already been taken, in a number of cases, against those said to have breached COVID-19 orders.

Also, coronavirus protocols have badly affected the life-giving tourism industry. Just yesterday came word of a tightening of rules governing the arrival of visitors from so-called high-risk countries.

We are now being told that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has designated the US, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico as high-risk locations for COVID-19. Residents of these countries visiting Jamaica are now required to do a COVID-19 PCR test prior to arrival.

All of which is why, for consistency's sake and the authorities' credibility, recent reports, photos and videos of Jamaica's political leaders, including Prime Minister Holness and Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, in the midst of sizeable crowds provide cause for extreme concern.

Jamaicans have seen evidence of social distance breaches and uncovered faces in the early phase of the current political campaign. All of that has to stop. What goes for the goose must go for the gander. It can't be a case of 'do as I say and not as I do'.

In the build-up to the September 3 parliamentary elections here, the political ombudsman, media, and the various watchdog agencies will have to do their part in ensuring politicians and supporters abide by the provisions of the Disaster Risk Management Act (Enforcement Measures) to which they have agreed.

We are told that “social distancing, the wearing of masks, sanitisation, and the limitation on public gatherings will be enforced. Walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning should be carried out in groups of no more than five people. There should be no mixing of groups, and they are to remain six feet away from each other.

“If a campaign group intends to enter a home, no more than two people within the group are to enter the dwelling. These two individuals are not to remain within this dwelling for longer than 15 minutes.”

This newspaper welcomes the stipulation that: “To prevent large gatherings and to ensure the safety of all, it was agreed that only two people per polling division may be invited to join the candidates on nomination day.”

Surely, this is one measure that should remain in place post-COVID-19.

Indeed, the realities of the digital age mean that, going forward, there really should be no need for some election campaign practices of the past, such as out-of-control mass rallies and motorcades.


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