|No further extension for local gov't elections, says PM
Monday, November 04, 2002
Prime Minister P J Patterson said yesterday that local government elections will be held by the end of next March and that his People's National Party (PNP) would this month begin to evaluate and select candidates for the contest.
"There will be no further extension of the time for local government elections," Patterson told the PNP's National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios. The more than 300-member NEC is the PNP's highest decision-making body outside the annual conference.
Local government elections are supposed to be held every three years, so one should have taken place September, 2001.
At the time, however, the choosing of the members of the 13 parish councils was put off, ostensibly to allow the Government to unveil its latest local reform plan. Most analysts, however, felt that the Government did not want to face municipal elections after its defeat months earlier in a parliamentary by-election in North-East St Ann and risk another defeat in the parishes at a time when the Opposition had the momentum in its favour.
They were put off again, this time for six months, when it was obvious that a general election - won by the PNP - was in the offing.
The reform plan, calling for the collapsing of existing parish councils into five regional governments, the direct election of mayors and the appointment, in some instances, of town managers, was released last November.
But in the year since the launch of the document, there has been less than a vigorous debate on the plan and Arnold Bertram, the former local government minister and the plan's main architect, lost his seat in Parliament during the October general election.
It was not clear yesterday if the new parish council elections will take place entirely on the old format or what aspect of the reform, if any, will be included in the coming poll. Patterson did not speak to that issue yesterday.
Yesterday's NEC meeting was the first for the PNP since it retained the Government for a fourth term on October 16, winning 34 of the 60 parliamentary seats.
The result was a substantial cut in the PNP's majority, and Patterson stressed the need for areas of improvement in the party's organisation if the party was to win the local government elections.
It was in this context that Patterson stressed the start of the evaluation programme in three weeks' time to assist the PNP in deciding which caretakers should be retained or relieved of their positions.
"Councillors and hustlers don't go together," said Patterson, stressing the requirement for local representatives to serve their constituents' needs at the community level.
The PNP, he said, would set up a review panel to ensure the "appropriate age and gender balance" of candidates in the local government elections. "We need to make room for some young people," Patterson said.
In addressing the delegates, Patterson repeated his post-election theme of unity in the society and urged the PNP to return to its original mission of embracing all social classes in the context of the party's poor showing among affluent sections of the electorate during the recent elections. In this regard, he said a more effective method had to be found to communicate with this sector.
However, he stressed that the drive towards inclusiveness was not an invitation to drug traffickers.
"There is no room in the PNP for persons who are going to be associated or be subservient to (drug trafficking) interests," he said. "We have won without them and we are better off without them."
Patterson also called for unity in the fight against crime and violence in Jamaica and told his party that murder had no place in politics.
"People must not see politics as the factor that determines whether they live or die," he said.