THE Opposition People’s National Party has formally written to Prime Minister Andrew Holness urging him to pause the plan to make Portmore, St Catherine, a parish, while making it clear that it would not be opposed to the move if that is the desire of the residents.
Acknowledging that the proposal was part of the Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) manifesto in the lead-up to the 2007 General Election, Opposition Leader Mark Golding argued that the position was adopted without consultation with the people of Portmore.
In a December 20 letter to Holness, which was released to the media on Wednesday, Golding charged that, “the objective of the conversion of Portmore from a city municipality to a parish is [being] driven by a narrow, partisan and self-serving desire to separate the people of Portmore from the rest of St Catherine in order to secure political control of the Spanish Town Municipal Corporation”.
According to Golding, “This objective was recently confirmed by a member of your Cabinet and senior member of the Jamaica Labour Party, minister Clifford Warmington, on Sunday, November 12, 2023 in a public statement which has been published in the media.
“In his statement, minister Warmington stated that the boundaries of Portmore will be changed to ensure that several areas within two Portmore constituencies, which have predominantly voted for the People’s National Party, will no longer be in those constituencies”.
Golding further charged that the plan for Portmore represent a distasteful rebirth of gerrymandering in Jamaica under Holness and represents a retrograde manoeuvre to undermine and reverse the gains secured since 1980 in detribalising the democratic processes.
“If pursued, this blatant gerrymandering will be a disgraceful legacy of your prime ministerial record, and an ugly stain that sullies our country’s image locally and internationally,” added Golding.
He argued that in light of the comments by Warmington, the Holness Administration should cease efforts to make Portmore a parish.
“Thereafter, the Government may commence broad-based consultations with the leadership of Portmore at all levels, along with the residents at the community level, to arrive at any modifications of the present structure, its boundaries and any other parameters that they may deem appropriate. Such contemplations would not exclude the possibility of Portmore becoming a parish or remaining a city municipality,” said Golding.
According to the PNP president, the Opposition has very serious concerns about any change in parish boundaries that would impact on constituency boundaries, emasculating the fundamental spirit and intent underpinning the independent Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) and the provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act (ROPA).
Under ROPA constitution boundaries are determined by the ECJ based on several factors which do not include political considerations.
“I encourage you to be mindful that Jamaica’s success to date in maintaining [a] democratic system of government to date, and prospects for economic growth and national development, are in large part dependent on our relatively stable political system and practices and the institutional arrangements which support this.
“Any manipulative tinkering of political boundaries, as articulated by minster Warmington, with the apparent support of your Cabinet, will only serve to derail the country’s past gains and future prospects,” declared Golding, who pointed out that a joint select committee of Parliament found no material benefits for Portmore to become a parish,” said Golding.
The Opposition leader’s letter to Holness comes days after Member of Parliament for St Catherine Southern, the PNP’s Fitz Jackson warned that party is prepared to take legal action over the proposed boundary changes in Portmore if the Government does not engage in further consultation.