Current Affairs

Current Affairs




175 nominated Day fairly peaceful

Observer Reporter
Tuesday, October 01, 2002



People's National Party supporters and their rivals from the Jamaica Labour Party campaign for their parties side by side in Barbican square yesterday afternoon. The friendly rivalry is a welcome change from the hostilities normally displayed by supporters of both major political parties, particularly at election time. (Photo: Garfield Robinson

ONE hundred and seventy-five candidates braved yesterday's squally weather to file nomination papers in order to be on the ballot for the October 16 general election.

But for one potential candidate, the National Democratic Movement's (NDM's) Earl Delisser, the heavy rains and flooding, associated with Hurricane Lili, proved too great an obstacle. He missed the four-hour window -- between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm -- given by candidates to file their papers and pay $3,000 deposits.

PNP supporters who accompanied candidate for South St Andrew, Omar Davies to the nomination centre yesterday.

Delisser, who lives in Kingston, had intended to contest the West St Thomas parliamentary seat against the incumbent Anthony Hylton of the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica labour Party (JLP's) James Robertson.

But NDM officials said yesterday the damage to a section of the roadway in Bull Bay meant that Delisser could not reach the Yallahs court house in time.

"The consensus is that he has missed an opportunity," said Michael Williams, general-secretary for the NDM, which, with its election partner, the New Jamaica Alliance, fielded 32 candidates to contest the elections.

Five years ago, the NDM's candidate in the constituency, Judith Forbes, received only 274 votes, against 7,728 for Hylton and 7,260 for the JLP's Dorothy Lightbourne.

There are 60 seats in Jamaica's Parliament, all of which are being contested by the two big parties, the governing PNP and the JLP.

In another surprising Nomination Day twist, involving the NDM/NJA, one of its strongest candidates, Brascoe Lee, announced at the last minute that he would not be nominated for the Trelawny South constituency -- ostensibly because recent distractions involving the NDM had side-tracked his campaign.

After weeks of speculation about its likelihood, the NDM's founder, Bruce Golding, announced last Wednesday that he was returning to the JLP which he left in 1995 because it was not engaging his demands for political and constitutional reform in Jamaica. The JLP has now declared a willingness to reconsider some of Golding's agenda, including his proposal for separation of powers between the Parliament and the executive.

Lee, also a former JLP parliamentarian, was among those who joined Golding in forming the NDM. He has launched bitter attacks over the manner of Golding's departure, and also claimed that constant rumours of negotiations between the NDM's former leader and the JLP had demotivated party workers.

In the aftermath of Golding's departure, Lee and another NDM politician, Bobby Marsh, had exploratory talks on behalf of the party with the PNP on post-election collaboration, but both sides ruled out an election alliance.

It was not clear last night if these discussions impacted on Lee's decision and how his opting out of the race would impact on the contest.

In the 1997 general election, Lee got 1,160 votes or 8.6 per cent of those cast, in a contest won by the PNP's Doreen Chen, who received a mere 169 votes more than her JLP rival, the late Alfred Chen. With the PNP enjoying less than a four per cent majority over the JLP in that election, and the current contest expected to be close, any candidate who picks up votes that might otherwise have gone to Lee is likely to be particularly grateful.

"It would have been an interesting race (with Lee in it)," said the NDM's Williams. He suggested that with Lee out of the contest, the situation "might favour the JLP".

There was another interesting development involving an NDM candidate -- Juan Reid. He managed to get his name on the nomination slate by having his wife -- also an NDM candidate -- file his paper.

Mrs Reid turned up at the nomination centre for candidates for West Central James and reported that her husband has been abroad for three weeks and could not get back to the island in time.

These procedural hitches apart, yesterday's nomination proceedings was largely peaceful despite at least two reports of post-nomination minor skirmishes in different parts of the island between PNP and JLP supporters.

In Westmoreland, a missile-throwing incident apparently injured two PNP supporters who were in a motorcade supporting Western Westmoreland candidate, Dr Wykeham McNeil. In Northwest St Andrew, the PNP candidate, Nenna Wilson, reported what appeared to be a minor skirmish between some of her supporters and supporters of the incumbent, JLP deputy leader Derrick Smith.

"Our reports so far are that it has been a peaceful Nomination Day," director of elections Danville Walker told reporters in an afternoon briefing at the Election Centre on Hope Road in Kingston. "We haven't had any incidents of any great magnitude reported to us."

This perception of the proceedings was confirmed by Superintendent L K Simpson, the police liaison officer posted at the centre.

Party officials and candidates hope to take what Walker called "this quite good behaviour" into the election itself.

In South East St Andrew where the PNP's Maxine Henry-Wilson and the JLP's Phillip Henriques were nominated, both talked peace.

"We are expecting no problem and are looking for a peaceful election," Henry-Wilson told reporters after filing her papers.

Said Henriques: "We need to have a fair campaign... We need to be able to campaign anywhere we want in the constituency without fear."

Henry-Wilson presented purple orchids to election workers in what she said was "PNP tradition". "The plants' colour signifies peace and relaxation," she quipped.

But the workers, while politely receiving the orchids, were not particularly comfortable with their gift.

"This donation is causing problems," said one after Henry-Wilson left. "Everyone keeps asking about it. When we leave we better donate it to the school."

In the PNP stronghold of St Andrew South, the PNP candidate, finance minister, Omar Davies, in the tradition of the constituency, was apparently treating the JLP's candidate, Dennis Messias, as a walk-over.

Said Davies after filing his papers: "I have already told my campaign team that I will hardly be available in my constituency right now because I am giving national issues and the national campaign the priority."