Holness and Jackson square off over proposed boundary shift in Portmore
Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Member of Parliament for St Catherine Southern Fitz Jackson clashed Tuesday over the government’s boundary proposal associated with the establishment of Portmore as Jamaica’s 15th parish.
Speaking at a handover ceremony in St Catherine under the New Social Housing Programme, Jackson said the eminent boundary shift is a clear attempt at gerrymandering, which he said would leave some citizens without representation, once effected.
“There is a document submitted by the Ministry of Local Government with boundary proposal unilaterally determined. And what that proposal would do is to establish a parish that cuts off parts of two constituencies; mine is one and Minister Terrelonge represents a part… areas that I represent will have no Member of Parliament,” Jackson said.
“And what Minister Warmington did say publicly, it will ensure that his party has dominance over those areas – the classical definition of gerrymandering. In 2023, prime minister, that’s a retrograde step, and I don’t want your legacy as prime minister to be tainted by that,” added Jackson.
The MP further took issue with the use of the Counties and Parishes Act (1867) as part of the justification for the proposed boundary shifts, describing it as an imperialist piece of legislation.
“That was promulgated then to allow the owners of properties to divide properties and estates for themselves-that’s the antecedent of that Act, which is now being used to create political boundaries in St Catherine. An 1867 imperialist legislation- Not a modern legislation for which all of us would have participated in,” stressed Jackson.
“So, prime minister, I want good sense to prevail. The media asked me earlier on, where are the community members here this morning? Why aren’t they here? I said they’re probably not here because they have nothing to celebrate this morning,” added Jackson.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who also addressed the gathering at the handing over ceremony, hit back at Jackson, noting that his comments were politically motivated and not necessarily a concern for the citizens.
“In case you have been convinced by the very sincere presentation of my batch mate, and if I were not someone in the know, I too would be tempted to believe it. As I have pointed out, one of the data, which is so important, is that a large part of the constituency is uninhabited, and probably will be the part that will be moved off and will not affect his votes,” said Holness.
“Now, the challenge, you know, when you were speaking, my dear Fitz, I listen to you carefully. Now, it was never my intention to come here to address matters of boundaries and constituencies because as Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time and a place for everything. It would appear that the real concern is not that the improvement of the people’s business, but the loss of votes,” added Holness.
Speaking with Observer Online following the event, Jackson claimed the Opposition was not consulted in the draft bill that laid out the proposed boundaries at the crux of the squabble.
“The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government came to the parliament on some other routine matters before the PAA and I used the opportunity to get some clarification from her as to how they arrived at those boundary proposals against the background of a public statement made by Minister Warmington,” explained Jackson.
“I was curious to know what advised the boundary proposals. The permanent secretary went around to indicate, in the midst of her answer she mentioned that the EOJ was consulted. That struck me because I know that anything that comes to EOJ – their modus operandi is to engage with the representatives politically, on both sides on what is proposed or being contemplated for input. And none never came to me as a Member of Parliament or nobody else in the PNP that I am aware of. In fact, I can say definitively none has come to anyone in the PNP, I can say that without fear of contradiction,” Jackson added.