Letters to the Editor

Watching McNeill's Westmoreland Western

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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Dear Editor,

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has said to the nation that if people want to be on the voters' list for November 30, 2019 the last day to register was September 30, 2019.

The ECJ is also now telling us that individuals who are on the list with identification cards before the year 2015 need to take a new photograph. The start date is November 4, 2019. And, we all know that turning up at a polling station without a voter's ID will eat up precious time on election day.

The headquarters of both political parties will eagerly await the new list to see how many names have been removed because of death, migration, etc. We the public can start looking at constituencies that may be affected negatively or positively depending on your perspective.

I will look at Westmoreland Western first. The Member of Parliament there is the People's National Party's Dr Kenneth Wykeham McNeill.

His father was also a parliamentarian and served two terms in two different St Andrew seats for the People's National Party. He also served as minister of health for a time in the 1970s. Father McNeill passed away on December 4, 2001 at the age of 83.

Dr McNeill's uncle, Roy Ambrose McNeill was a home affairs minister under a Jamaica Labour Party Government in the 1960s. So, this man grew up in politics.

The sitting Member is the current chairman of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament and has been prominent in the news cycle for the last six months.

So what are the issues facing his constituency one might ask. By following the local news you hear them. They are youth unemployment, night noise nuisance, scamming, increase in the murder rate, flooding, and the usual cry of bad roads.

Dr McNeill has been in Westmoreland Western for some 22 years now. After first facing the polls in 1997 he has a long tenure as Member of Parliament for the new voters to scrutinise.

When the Jamaica Labour Party represented the seat, from 1944 to 1962, it had different representatives there. I can just imagine some readers kissing their teeth and saying those country people will not be voting for a Jamaica Labour Party candidate in significant numbers. But Dr McNeill's margin of victory was under 1,500 in the last general election. This is less than the 2,088-vote lead the People's National Party had in Portland Eastern. I attached Dr McNeill's election performance for ease of reference.

Consider this, Members of Parliament in competitive seats tend to work harder. If Dr McNeill pulls through with a smaller margin, he will work harder. If his challenger also wins with a smaller margin, there is no guarantee he or she will be returned the following election. So the Member of Parliament for this seat must work.

This present scenario is intriguing. This is why we watch.

Watcher on the Wall


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