'Ban motorcades!' - EAC requests end to rallies in violence-prone areas
By Lynford Simpson, Staff Reporter
Tuesday, October 8, 2002
Sections of Beeston Street, Central Kingston, remained blocked yesterday, as factions try to protect their area from drive-by shootings. - Norman Grindley /Staff Photographer
POLICE COMMISSIONER Francis Forbes was yesterday asked to ban all political meetings, motorcades and rallies in six violence-prone constituencies, to prevent an escalation of the conflicts that have erupted between supporters of the PNP and the JLP, since Nomination Day.
Professor Errol Miller, chairman of the Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC), wrote Commissioner Forbes yesterday, following a special meeting of the advisory body to which Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair was invited.
The targeted constituencies are: Kingston Central, Manchester Central, St. Thomas Western, St. Catherine Central, St. Andrew West Central, and St. Andrew Eastern.
Additionally, the EAC has asked Mr. Forbes not to grant permission for any political meetings, rallies or tours in any of the 60 constituencies on Friday, October 11 bet-ween 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., the time allotted for members of the security forces and election day workers to cast their ballots.
The rest of the population will vote on Wednesday, October 16.
There was no indication yesterday as to whether Mr. Forbes would accede to the EAC's request, as he could not be reached for comment. But Acting Assistant Commissioner Linval Bailey, who is in charge of operations, said he was in full support of banning motorcades and rallies. According to the officer, since Nomination Day most of the political violence has been associated with motorcades and persons returning or attending political meetings.
Director of Elections, Danville Walker, who made the announcement at a press briefing yesterday at the Election Centre at Hope Road, St. Andrew, said: "We are quite concerned about the upturn of unacceptable activities that have been taking place since Nomination Day." Such activities, he said, included the stoning of motorcades by supporters of the two major political parties, the governing People's National Party (PNP) and the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
He observed that much of the confrontation that has taken place between supporters of the PNP and JLP occur after mass meetings when people are on their way home. Mr. Walker, who is also head of the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ), warned that similar treatment would be meted out to any other constituency where similar events occur.
The EoJ boss questioned whether the rallies should continue. "Can we afford to continue our campaigning in this manner," he asked.
In Kingston Central, where the PNP's Victor Cummings is being challenged by Dr. Charlton Collie of the JLP, what was reported as gang violence erupted in the days leading up to Nomination Day. A political flavour has since been placed on the disturbances in the constituency where two men were shot and killed on Sunday and heavy gunfire reported throughout the night. Mr. Cummings has reported that one of his workers was shot and injured.
A team led by the PNP's Colin Campbell in the Hermitage area of Eastern St. Andrew reported coming under gunfire on Friday afternoon. It is the same constituency where 12 people were shot and injured on Nomination Day in 1997. Mr. Campbell is being challenged by Dr. St. Aubyn Bartlett of the JLP.
And the police have been kept busy in Central St. Catherine where incumbent Member of Parliament Olivia Grange (JLP) is going up against the PNP's Homer White. At least four people were shot and killed in politically-motivated violence in the constituency before Nomination Day. A shoot-out between the police and gunmen in Spanish Town last week left one man dead, and JLP supporters attending a meeting in the old capital last Thursday were reportedly ambushed by gunmen.
The constituency offices of the PNP candidates in West Central St. Andrew and Western St. Thomas have reportedly been attacked by JLP supporters and supporters of the two parties in Central Manchester have accused each other of inciting violence in the usually quiet town of Mandeville.
While not numbered among the six, North Western St. Andrew, where the JLP's Derrick Smith is sitting MP, has seen two JLP supporters shot and killed between last Friday and Sunday.
Bishop Blair, who is also chairman of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), told journalists yesterday that the PMI would be going into the Maverley area of the constituency where the killings took place, perhaps as early as today in an effort to quell the situation.
Late yesterday afternoon also, as PNP President P.J. Patterson toured St. Thomas, shots were fired on the motorcade entering Morant Bay. According to police on the ground, one woman was injured and taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital in Morant Bay.
The Ombudsman also disclosed yesterday that to date his office has received 30 complaints from the two major parties, the majority having to do with acts of intimidation.