Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Tempers calmed
Ombudsman urges peace in St Catherine, Candidates to sign code of conduct
Observer Reporter
Friday, August 16, 2002

THE ruling People's National Party (PNP) yesterday instructed its Central St Catherine candidate, Homer White, to move the party's constituency office from the Homestead area as well as to take down flags from utility poles in a bid to dampen the rising political tension, believed to have been behind three deaths in the past week.

"Mr White has been advised, and he has agreed, to go along with those initiatives," a PNP official told the Observer last night.

At the same time, White and his opponents, the sitting MP, the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP's) Olivia "Babsy" Grange and Peppon Ruddock of the New Jamaica Alliance (NJA), will next week sign a constituency political code of conduct as a public signal of intent to run peaceful campaigns.

BLAIR... presided over a long meeting between the candidates

Candidates in the 60 constituencies are expected to sign the code -- a subsidiary of a broader one between the JLP and the PNP -- but the one for Central St Catherine has taken added urgency, given the political flare-up there.

"The three political representatives have agreed to meet next week to sign the political Code of Conduct in an effort to defuse the current tension in the constituency and also to discuss a number of issues which they hope will help the process to return peace to the constituency," the political ombudsman, Bishop Herro Blair told the Observer.

Blair had earlier presided over a long meeting between the candidates after charges and counter-charges between the PNP and the JLP, demonstrations by each others' supporters and the resultant early closure of several businesses in Spanish Town, the old Jamaican capital.

The political temperature in Spanish Town and Central St Catherine generally, began to heat up last Saturday when Rohan Clarke, 25, was shot dead on Brunswick Avenue in Spanish Town. On Tuesday night, two other men -- Devon Campbell, 35, and Devon Brown, 30 -- were shot dead and a third man shot and injured in the old colonial town.

Grange has claimed all the victims as her supporters and has accused the Spanish Town police of not doing enough to stem the attacks, which have apparently been linked to accusation by PNP supporters that their party flags were being torn down by political rivals.

JLP officials have suggested that PNP's orange flags in its strongholds were intimidatory and provocative and breached the political code of conduct.

Central St Catherine, with its many tough neighbourhoods, has long been a political hotbed. It was for many years represented by former JLP chairman, Bruce Golding.

Golding lost the seat to Grange in the 1997 general elections, having left the JLP more than two years earlier to form the National Democratic Movement (NDM) as a vehicle to promote fundamental change in Jamaica's politics. Golding is no longer the leader of the NDM which is a member of the three-party alliance of the NJA.

Yesterday, a demonstration broke in the JLP stronghold of Tawes Pen after residents claimed to have seen the six gunmen who killed Campbell, approaching their community in a motor car.

Police said shots were fired by the demonstrators, who also looted a truck with cement. Police fired shots in the air to disperse the crowd.

Simultaneously, at the north western end of Spanish Town, at Huckerby Avenue, PNP supporters blocked roads.

According to White, the demonstration was triggered by alleged comments by Grange on the HOT 102 FM morning show, the Breakfast Club that gunmen lived on the avenue. Police addressed the demonstrators who later cleared the street.

Blair, as part of his initiative, accompanied the candidates into the troubled areas and during a meeting at Tawes Pen, the three party representatives shook hands and agreed to distance themselves from violence and promised to do everything to prevent a recurrence of the recent incidents.

"The JLP have no reason to promote violence," Grange told the crowd, made up mainly of her supporters. "We have no reason to attack anybody. Neither is there any reason or excuse for JLP supporters to be attacked. I have always discouraged you from promoting violence or political polarisation."