There will be no honeymoon period, says JLPSaturday, September 05, 2020
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James — General secretary of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Dr Horace Chang says despite his party's landslide win over the People's National Party (PNP) in the September 3 General Election to return to Government, there will be no honeymoon period.
“The challenges are well known, and we have no time to take holidays. We just have to look at getting Government back up...establish the formal structure of Government and start working almost immediately. There is no break for celebrations,” Dr Chang told the Jamaica Observer during a telephone interview yesterday.
“We have to accept this victory with humility and with acceptance of the people's trust and faith,” Chang said. He stressed that restricting the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is high on the priority list of challenges to be instantly tackled by the Government.
“We don't have any honeymoon; we are in Government and we know the challenges — and in particular this pandemic which is affecting us now and moving into a new phase. We have to take all the steps necessary to protect lives and livelihoods,” he said.
Ahead of the polls Dr Chang had predicted that his party would win by a wide margin, but following the preliminary count the JLP amassed 49 seats to the PNP's 14, which exceeded his projections.
“I was confident all along of a very comfortable victory — as I said, 40, minimum — and projected a possibility of 45. Forty-eight is humbling and overwhelming,” he declared.
He attributed the colossal margin of victory to the vast popularity of party leader, Andrew Holness.
“I knew that the results were unpredictable from day one because the mood of the country was strongly in favour of the party leader because, the truth is, the country still votes presidential although we like to try and think of it as a constituency. His pull in many seats was sometimes above 10 per cent. So, I knew we would have some unusual results but I didn't want to venture above 45 [seats],” he said.
Dr Chang, who successfully contested the St James North Western seat against George Hamilton of the PNP, was among the 12 JLP candidates who made a sweep of all the seats in the parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland.
Meanwhile, there were no reports of any major incidents on election day in St James,where slow voting characterised proceedings across a vast number of polling divisions (PDs) in the parish as electoral workers stuck to the task of ensuring that each voter was properly sanitised and wore a mask.
The slow pace of voting was of particular concern to the JLP's Heroy Clarke who defeated the PNP's Andre Andre Hylton to regain the St James Central seat.
He lamented that elderly voters were made to stand in the sweltering heat from the afternoon sun for over an hour-and-a-half in the Puerto Bello community.
Clarke, who cast his ballot at Full Gospel Church in Rose Heights, also rued that people there were waiting in line for up to three hours.
In St James East Central, the JLP's Edmund Bartlett, who defeated Michael Hemmings of the PNP, said he was satisfied with the COVID-19 protocols observed at polling stations across the constituency. However, he noted that the screening of individuals ahead of entering the polling stations caused some delay and was a turn-off for some voters.
“I think that the protocols have been observed, the social distancing has been maintained; it has caused a slowing of the process and we are hoping that it is not slow to the point of frustrating some. At two PDs we learnt that people who had to go to work felt a little pushed for time and some left to come back, and that was a constraint,” said Bartlett.
The PNP's Dr Andre Haughton, who was beaten by the JLP's Marlene Malahoo Forte in St James West Central, suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for the introduction of an electronic voting system to allow individuals to vote for the candidate of their choice wherever they are located across the island, without having to physically vote at a polling station in their constituency.
“We have observed lengthy waits for persons to vote and we have observed that too many questions are being asked. There needs to be quicker verification for the people in order to get them to vote. And I guess it is time for Jamaica now to become modern. I think that now electronic voting should come into play. I think that now there should be a way to vote anywhere you are in the country for your respective MP that you want to vote for and I think right now is the time for us to modernise — and this COVID-19 window has shown us this and we must act upon it,” Dr Haughton said.