At least 126 candidates expected to be nominated today

At least 126 candidates expected to be nominated today

JLP, PNP call for COVID-19 precautions as campaign gets in high gear for Sept 3 polls

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

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JAMAICA'S political parties will take the first step towards staging of the 2020 General Election today with at least 126 candidates set to be nominated for a political campaign seriously hampered by protocols related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But, despite the threat to freedom of movement and the curtailment of engagements including funerals, beach and river bathing, church and entertainment, the main political parties have expressed confidence in their ability to carry through with the exercise which will be completed on election day, September 3.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie said yesterday that the country will be seeing a different level of road campaigning, predicated along the lines of observing the various protocols that will have to be followed during campaigning.

“We will be using motorcades as the main means of transport, and will be rolling that out with a road programme commencing on Wednesday,” he told a virtual press conference from the headquarters of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in Kingston.

He said that the motorcade will move through all 63 constituencies across the country.

“Despite the short period of time, the party considers it important that every constituency gets a taste of this new way of campaigning that the JLP will bring to the table,” McKenzie added.

At the same time, the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) has appealed to the general public to wear masks and adhere to the practice of social distancing during the general election campaign, pointing out that the alarming spike in the number of coronavirus cases within segments of the population is cause for concern, especially among the elderly and individuals with underlying illnesses.

In the last 24 hours, there were 24 new cases across the island.

PNP health spokesman Dr Morais Guy said the commuting public and transport operators must take extra precaution and obey the guidelines, especially the wearing of masks and sanitising of hands as there is increasing concern that the instructions are not being followed in the transport sector.

“The unfortunate death of a taxi operator recently who contracted the virus makes the point that every safeguard must be taken to protect the public and minimise the possible spread of the virus,” he said.

In the meantime, JLP campaign spokesperson Kamina Johnson Smith said on the weekend that party leader Andrew Holness met with the party's 25 new candidates, as well as the first-time Members of Parliament from the House of Representatives who will be seeking re-election following the dissolution of Parliament on Thursday, August 14, to make way for a new Administration on September 4.

She explained that one of the key issues facing the party is its readiness in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she said that the political parties were also subject to protocols introduced by the political ombudsman in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the parties themselves.

“There will be no marching to nomination. As we have clearly repeated, this is a campaign with a difference,” she noted. She said motorcades will not be allowed on to the returning officer's premises, so supporters will have to park some distance from the premises.

Johnson Smith said motorcades can stop to allow the candidates to address supporters, but the exercise should not allow more than 20 people to join the motorcade, and each stop should be for no longer than 15 minutes.

“Fifteen minutes is an important one, because a longer period than that will obviously heighten the risk of infection,” she stated.

She said, too, that no more than four people should be in a motor car, and if a bus is being used there must be adequate space among the passengers.

Dr Guy added that, while law enforcement can play its role to ensure compliance in some scenarios, it is up to everyone to take responsibility to obey the COVID-19 guidelines and instructions from the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

States of public emergency (SOEs), which were in place in sections of the island to control serious cries for order, including rising number of murders, were terminated yesterday following Parliament's recent approval of five resolutions moved by Prime Andrew Holness to end the SOEs earlier than the September 3 end date.

The JLP edged the PNP 32-31 in the 2016 General Election but ended up with 34 seats after by-elections in 2017 and 2019.


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