Full election mode
CHAIRMAN Robert Montague emerged from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Central Executive Committee meeting on Sunday saying that the 80-year-old political organisation is now in “full election mode” and that his team has no equal going into the upcoming local government polls.
“In February 2023 when the local government election was being postponed from the floor of the Parliament the country was put on the mark. At our 80th anniversary conference last November the order came, ‘Get set.’ On the 14th of January 2024 it is ready,” Montague, who was returned unopposed as chairman during Sunday’s meeting at JLP headquarters on Belmont Road in St Andrew, told the Jamaica Observer.
“The Jamaica Labour Party has introduced to the country the best set of mayors, the best set of councillors, and today, on the 14th, we have declared the best set of candidates for a local government election. There is no alternative; this slate is Jamaica’s only choice. We stand on our achievements and we look forward to our plans and policies; and we believe in the Jamaican people because we have served them, we love them, and we know they love us,” Montague said.
The veteran politician, who represents St Mary Western in the legislature, said the ruling party will be giving the same level of energy to its strongest and weakest divisions.
“We are leaving nothing to chance. We’re going to fight for every community because this is about community â€” and the community is the cornerstone of the country,” Montague said.
Earlier in a news release, chairman of the party’s public relations committee Robert Nesta Morgan said the meeting had received reports from the executive, including Montague, General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, Deputy Chairman Dr Aundre Franklyn, chairman of Area Council One Desmond McKenzie, and Treasurer Aubyn Hill.
Morgan said that, based on the reports, JLP leader Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the party’s political machinery is ready for local government elections and said he is confident in the prospects of the JLP for the upcoming poll, as the internal polling numbers showed the party maintaining a strong lead in a majority of parish council seats.
Local government elections, which are constitutionally due every four years, were last held in November 2016. They were scheduled for November 2020 but were postponed as the country was still in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic. This notwithstanding the fact that a general election was held two months earlier.
In February last year legislators in both Houses of Parliament put through the Representation of the People (Postponement of Elections to Municipal Corporation and City Municipalities) Act, 2023, which postponed the election until February 2024 to allow further time for continued public consultation on draft legislation to enable Portmore to become Jamaica’s 15th parish.
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 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.
In his news release Morgan also said that during Sunday’s meeting Holness commented on some of the important issues on the national agenda, including the push to make Portmore a parish, saying it was never intended as an election gimmick or a strategy to win the municipality.
He noted that the country is evolving economically, culturally and socially, and this evolution requires the Government to make strategic changes to enhance the development of areas like Portmore, which requires changes in definition and management to further its development.
The prime minister, Morgan said, was adamant that his Government would never seek to use the people of Portmore for narrow political objectives.
Regarding other important issues on the national agenda, Holness noted that roads have become a political flashpoint wherein some people feel that in order to get their roads repaired, they must protest. He advised that roads continue to be a critical priority for the Government.
The central executive was told that the new Shared Prosperity through Accelerated Improvement to our Road Network (SPARK) programme will provide a collaborative approach between the Government, Members of Parliament, councillors and community members. The programme will modernise more than 2,000 roads islandwide.
Holness instructed them to work collaboratively and help ensure that the Government’s focus on road infrastructure is successful.
He said that at the next sitting of Parliament the Government will outline a consultative process for residents of communities to contribute to the decision-making on which roads should be repaired in their area, but emphasised that priority ought to be given to those roads considered to be pain points.
He also challenged political leaders, councillors, and councillor caretakers to ensure that they focus on their communities to highlight the strong achievements that have been made over the last six years under the JLP, Morgan said.
Holness added that no other Government has done as much for local government, and only a JLP-led Government has the vision and the expertise to continue the positive evolution of local government in Jamaica.