McKenzie to meet with JLP St Thomas councillors today

McKenzie to meet with JLP St Thomas councillors today

Thursday, December 08, 2016

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Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie has called Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillors in the St Thomas Municipal Corporation to meet with him today to discuss controversial developments following the final count of votes in the November 28 Local Government Election.

McKenzie’s request follows yesterday’s swearing-in of the five JLP councillors in the council, including the new mayor of the municipality, Councillor Lenworth Rawle of the Trinityville Division in St Thomas Western.

But, with People’s National Party (PNP) councillors absent from the swearing-in, the JLP councillors went ahead and also voted in their own deputy mayor, Michael Hue of the Port Morant Division in St Thomas Eastern.

Those developments triggered complaints from the absent PNP councillors, who wanted the swearing-in to be delayed pending the court’s hearing of a petition against JLP Councillor Dean Jones of the Yallahs Division, whom they claim does not live in the parish.

McKenzie, in a statement yesterday, invited the JLP councillors to meet with him in Kingston today.

The minister’s position, as stated in his release to the media, was that postponing the swearing-in violates the accepted convention where a tie occurs.

"It is well known, and indeed, the director of elections has referred to it, that the party with the popular vote in the parish selects the mayor, and the other side will select the deputy mayor," McKenzie stated.

"In this instance, the mayor comes from the Jamaica Labour Party. Despite the fact that an election petition has been filed with respect to the Yallahs Division, there is no justification for the duly elected representatives who won on the PNP ticket to refrain from being sworn in today," he said.

However, he added that, while there was nothing wrong with the JLP councillors going ahead with the ceremony, the convention will be respected and upheld, where once a tie occurs, the party with the popular vote will select the mayor, while the other party selects the deputy mayor.

McKenzie’s position on the swearing-in has, however, raised some concerns among the JLP councillors in the parish, who insist their legal advice is that, under the newly promulgated local government reform act, they should be able to select a deputy mayor in the absence of the Opposition.

James Robertson, the JLP member of parliament for St Thomas Western, when asked to comment on the issue said that he has given his blessings to the meeting between the minister and the five JLP councillors, and would not contradict his fellow deputy leader of the JLP in public.

However, Robertson accused the PNP of being "duplicitous" in dealing with the law and the convention.

"Political parties cannot play loose and fast with the laws concerning their members’ duty to serve the people. It carries a price, because the days of cheap politics are over," Robertson said.

He accused the PNP councillors of spreading propaganda in the media that the swearing-in was postponed.

Sources in St Thomas also told the Jamaica Observer that Councillor Jones has produced proof that he lives in St Thomas. The Observer was unable to contact Jones for a comment.

The final count of votes in St Thomas saw a five-five tie between the PNP and the JLP. According to convention over the years, this would mean that the party with the majority of votes, which in this case is the JLP, selects the mayor of the town and chairman of the Parish Council (Municipal Corporation), and the other party names the deputy mayor.

However, it is not known what the case is when one side boycotts the swearing-in ceremony.

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