THE Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) seems set to finalise its plans, and possibly a date, for the looming local government elections when its Central Executive Committee meets today.
Up to late Saturday, senior JLP officials were tight-lipped about when the polls will be held, pointing the Jamaica Observer to Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie.
But during the usual monthly meeting of municipal corporations across the island last week there were several indications from JLP chairmen that those would be the last meetings before the polls.
Mayor of Port Maria Richard Creary told members of St Mary Municipal Corporation to get ready to face their exams as he declared that that councillors should be prepared and ready.
“To face the electorate, all of us have done enough. And we are not worried to go out and campaign and, hopefully, return to the St Mary Municipal Corporation,” Creary said in a show of confidence that the JLP would retain control of the municipal corporation.
It was a similar message from Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams at a meeting of Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation on Tuesday as he hinted it would be the last before the local government elections.
“We wish you all the best and we wish for your re-election. I know you are very decent campaigners so welcome to the camaraderie and the high level of decency involved in the campaign activities. But if I don’t get that opportunity to do it again because the election is called, I take the opportunity to say to you all, all the best,” Williams told the meeting.
Under the Representation of the People Act there must be at least five clear days after the announcement of an election and nomination day, which cannot be a Sunday or public holiday, and no fewer than 16 days, to a maximum of 23 days between nomination day and election day.
This would give the Holness-led Administration a deadline of February 3 to announce the election if it is to stick to its commitment of holding the poll by the end of February.
Late last week whispers emerged in political circles that during a meeting with the party’s mayors, McKenzie was urged to delay the election for at least three months.
While efforts to contact McKenzie were unsuccessful, senior JLP officials told the Sunday Observer that the Government was firm in its commitment to not postpone the election this time around.
The elections, which are constitutionally due every four years, were last held in November 2016. They were due to be held in November 2020 but were postponed as the country was still in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic — this was notwithstanding the fact that a general election was held two months earlier, in September of that year.
At that time the new date for Jamaicans to elect local government representatives was set for February 28, 2023, but days before the polls were to be held McKenzie told the House of Representatives that they would be postponed for a third time as the country’s economic recovery post-COVID, while good, was still fragile and consultations were still under way to make Portmore the country’s 15th parish.
Late last week mayor of Port Antonio, the JLP’s Paul Thompson, told the Sunday Observer that the JLP’s representatives in Portland are comfortable with the end of February date.
“The tentative date that I personally have in mind is by the 28th of February, and that is what I have in mind,” said Thompson.
“The caretakers have been frustrated for such a long time and then to put it off every minute…. Some of the councillors and some of the caretakers would do well with an extension but it has been at the back of my mind from it was announced that [it will be held] by the 28th of February,” added Thompson.
He argued that some councillors and caretakers, who have unfinished work to do, might welcome another postponement but, “for me personally, I just want to get over with it. But if it is the will of the Government to put it back for another three weeks, I don’t think it will really matter to me.
“We have a Central Executive [Committee] meeting on Sunday (today), and I think some announcements will be made and some insight will be given as to when the next election will be.
Last Thursday, Thompson told a meeting of Portland Municipal Corporation that, “An election is imminent, and I am not sure how many of us will be returned as councillors as many of us are here for the first time and this is the test that we are going to face in the election. I figure I might scrape through.”
It was a similar story from Mayor of Falmouth Collen Gager who on Friday told the Sunday Observer that the JLP is confident of retaining control of Trelawny Municipal Corporation (TMC) and that its councillor/candidates are prepared for whenever the local government elections are called.
“We at the Trelawny Municipal Corporation are ready so it matters not; and whenever it is called we are ready so I am not contemplating about the timeline. Whether it put off or it don’t put off, we are ready and we are ready to retain the Trelawny Municipal Corporation,” said Gager.
“We know that we will regain control of the municipal corporation and that is why I say we are ready — but we are guided by any decision that the minister and the party would be making,” added Gager as he expressed confidence that the JLP will increase the number of divisions it controls in the next local government elections.
Of the nine councillors who make up the TMC, the JLP has six, to the PNP’s three.