THE House of Representatives yesterday approved a further year-long extension of local government elections, which have been due since November 2020.
However, unlike the first extension, which had the backing of both Government and Opposition parliamentarians for a Bill to temporarily modify the Representation of the People Act (ROPA), and allow the elections to be delayed to no later than February 27, 2022, the House was divided this time with an overwhelming victory for the Government.
The 37-7 vote was triggered by Opposition Leader Mark Golding's proposal to limit the extension to delay to six months. Government members voted solidly with Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie, who led the debate for a 12-month extension.
McKenzie told the House that the Government would not wish for political confrontation between supporters of both major political parties during the celebration of Jamaica's 60th diamond anniversary of Independence.
But Golding insisted that the Opposition would not agree to an extension beyond six months.
According to the minister, the Government recognised that the election of political representatives at the local level cannot be postponed indefinitely. “But, as the minister responsible for local government, I wish to assure the House and the country that we are still committed to having the next local government elections in the shortest practicable time. The commitment of this Administration to the local government system is well-known. It is a critical part of national life which will remain unthreatened by the postponement of local government elections,” he said.
But Golding noted that there was an obvious difference between the approach to the issue by the minister and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who had earlier reminded the House that the country had to move on and learn to live with COVID-19, as it had become endemic.
– Balford Henry