A professor, a bishop and two Delanos
Monday, December 12, 2011
This Jamaica takes us through so many highs and lows! We have been enjoying a great deal of sober public discourse on all sides about the December 29 general election. But then, we see these disturbing clips of gunmen engaging the police in a shootout on the grounds of St Jago High School in Spanish Town. (Thankfully, the students were unharmed.) The news also carries the usual political platform drama, with KD warning Dwight, Andrew apologising to media, and Portia wagging her finger at Andrew.
We saw an excellent group of Jamaicans on TVJ's Impact last Thursday, signalling that Jamaica's electoral system was in very good shape. The probing Emily Crooks hosted Professor Errol Miller, chairman of the Electoral Commission; Bishop Herro Blair, political ombudsman; and clean-cut campaign spokespersons Delano Franklin and Delano Seiveright for the PNP and JLP respectively.
We learned a lot. Prof Miller made three important points:
*If you are not on the voters' list published on November 30, you simply cannot vote. He said that voters may check for their names at post offices or on the web - www.ecj.com.jm. You should vote at your location on the list, even if you have changed the address of your residence since being enumerated.
* Agreement on the location of polling stations was reached after dialogue with both political parties and much planning. He emphasised that there can be no change of these locations.
* The ballot in Jamaica is absolutely secret. If you expose your "X", the ballot will be taken away from you. The presiding officer may not look at your choice and may not ask for whom you voted. The ballot is folded in such a way that even when the numbered counterfoil is being removed, the section with your mark remains folded and unexposed. Once the counterfoil is removed, and the ballot placed in the box, there is absolutely no way that it can be traced back to the voter.
Prof Miller also mentioned a criticism of a party representative that four candidates with dual citizenship had been accepted for nomination for the last general election by the respective returning officers. Prof Miller made it clear that the Electoral Office has no jurisdiction over such matters. Today, nomination day, we should bear in mind that the returning officer must accept the nomination of the candidate once the person satisfies three requirements:
(1) The prospective candidate has the endorsement of 10 registered voters
(2) The individual makes his/her application at the designated location between 10 am and 2 pm
(3) The individual pays a nomination fee of $3,000.
Congrats to the Women's Political Caucus of Jamaica supported by the Rose Leon Memorial Trust - they will pay nomination fees for all women candidates, irrespective of their political affiliation. For this election, there are 18 such candidates - five from the PNP led by Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller and 13 from the JLP - the highest ever in Jamaica's history.
Bishop Herro Blair disclosed that he had been kept extremely busy. "It is the first time since 2002 that I have had so many calls and complaints," he said. He explained that if his office decides to pursue a complaint, it is heard by a tribunal comprising the general secretaries of both political parties. Some of the matters they have dealt with for this election include the defacement of the Danville Walker billboard in Central Manchester.
The political ombudsman says there are 20 investigators attached to his office, all of whom are sergeants with the JCF. He says it is incumbent on the political parties to field candidates who are "people beyond doubt". He is asking the parties to quell "unacceptable behaviour" and reminding them that it is illegal to hoist green and orange flags to mark areas that are purported to be JLP or PNP. "There are provisions under the NSWMA Act against affixing anything in a public place, as this is contributing to the defacement of the environment," he noted. "This includes light posts."
Of course, both Delanos declared victory for their respective parties. "The JLP is on the verge of a possible landslide," opined Seiveright. "The people want something different, we are about Jamaica, about moving our country forward."
Franklin predicted that his party "will take 32 and more" and that they are campaigning aggressively because "Jamaicans want something new and different". Pundits are looking at a worldwide tendency to vote out incumbents in two ways: it could be a win for the PNP or it could be that the recently appointed JLP leader is seen as a fresh face in politics.
Do politicians know the power of our seniors?
I had the pleasure of speaking with two groups of bright and engaged pensioners last week - from the Bureau of Standards and from the Bank of Jamaica. I wonder if our politicians are seeing the gathering power of our seniors, who now make up the fastest-growing segment of the population. It has been proved worldwide that these folks take their democratic rights seriously and are the most active participants in the process. Our campaigners would do well to test their messages on our God-fearing seniors (The PM's story of his great-grandmother's ministrations went over well.) They will pack far more punch in the coming elections than some believe.
Richie Stephens' new anthem of self-actualisation
At a recent event held by First Global Bank (well organised by Keith Brown), we were moved by the emotional rendition by veteran composer-singer Richie Stephens, of his latest hit Live Your Life. Stephens, mourning the tragic death of his son, was in Germany as a guest of German reggae artiste, Gentleman, when he penned the song and recorded it with his faithful friend.
"When I was at my lowest it was the strength of the Most High and the healing power of our music that helped me to move on," he said. Stephens performed before an audience of over 750,000 in Poland at the invitation of Gentleman. Next year, we can look forward to hearing them together at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival as Gentleman will be Stephens' special guest.
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