Parties agree: No public meetings in Portland Eastern tonight

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

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There will be no mass meeting in Portland Eastern tonight to end the fierce political campaigning which has preceded Thursday's parliamentary by-election in the constituency.

General secretaries for both the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) — Dr Horace Chang and Julian Robinson, respectively — confirmed last night that a mutual agreement had been reached cancelling the mass rallies which had been planned to end campaigning for the by-election.

The agreement ended a dispute between both political parties over who should host a final rally in the capital town of Port Antonio. It also cured the Jamaica Constabulary Force's headache over how it would have been able to control two mass crowds of passionate party supporters on the eve of what has been one of the most important by-elections in the country's political history.

The announcement was initially made by Dr Chang, who is also minister of national security, right after last evening's meeting of the parties.

The JLP general secretary said that both sides had agreed to postpone their mass rallies for tonight, in light of the highly tense atmosphere which currently exists in the constituency.

The situation became volatile over the weekend following the shooting death of Tevin McKenzie, a 24-year-old unemployed man of a Port Antonio address, whom the JLP has identified as one of its supporters.

McKenzie was one of three men standing in front of a bar at about 11:45 pm last Thursday when they were approached by a gunman who shot them. They were taken to hospital where McKenzie was pronounced dead and the other men admitted in stable condition.

Following that incident, the JLP issued a statement yesterday calling on the police to heighten their presence in the Halls Avenue/Free School area, following an alleged second shooting attack on one of its supporters, who was seriously injured on Sunday night.

In the meantime, a row had been developing between both parties over the venue for their final rallies which would have to be held by tonight under Electoral Commission rules.

Ann-Marie Vaz, the JLP candidate, in a letter to the Constituted Authority yesterday, said that the party would be postponing its meeting planned for Port Antonio Square tonight, in light of the political tension.

“I believe this is a dangerous move, when one considers the rising tension, and escalating violence in Eastern Portland,” she said in reference to the PNP's decision to hold a rally at Folly Oval, also in Port Antonio, tonight.

But the PNP's general secretary told the Observer last night that there were no plans for any major public meeting in the town by the PNP.

“We have met and reached an agreement on that,” Robinson confirmed.

The PNP's Damion Crawford and Vaz are contesting the seat, which became vacant after PNP MP Lynvale Bloomfield was stabbed to death in February.


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