|Walker urges JLP to discipline Grange
Sunday, September 15, 2002
Director of Elections, Danville Walker, has urged the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to firmly discipline its deputy leader and Central St Catherine parliamentarian, Olivia "Babsy" Grange, for an alleged intimidatory statement that led to the resignation of the constituency's Returning Officer, Vera Roofe.
"We condemn the remarks and we should all feel a collective sense of shame that after so much work (to reform the electoral system) we find ourselves dealing with this issue," Walker said in a letter Friday to JLP chairman, Ryan Peralto.
"The strongest action must be taken by the leadership of the Jamaica Labour Party in disciplining this candidate so that qualified persons will feel free to continue to serve the electoral system in this constituency," Walker added in the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Sunday Observer.
But last night, Grange rejected that her remarks were threatening and that she had merely pointed to a historic fact and charged that the story was being contrived for political purposes.
"I'm being set up," Grange declared. "I did not threaten that lady."
|WALKER. says Grange's remarks unfortunate and irresponsible|
The controversy was triggered by an Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) proposal to move five polling stations for the coming general election from the Eltham Park Primary School to elsewhere in the constituency on the grounds that it would lessen overcrowding and improve security on Election Day.
Apparently ruling People's National Party (PNP) Central St Catherine candidate, Homer White, and the National Democratic Movement's (NDM's) Pepon Ruddock agreed with the changes.
Political sources say that Grange initially rejected any changes. But last night the JLP deputy leader said that she had endorsed the movement of three stations but was concerned about the other two for convenience and security reasons.
|PERALTO. asked to discipline Grange|
According to the report of the meeting, submitted by Roofe, during a heated exchange "between the political players present", Grange, according to Roofe, reminded that "a Returning Officer was killed as a result of trying to remove polling stations".
That would have been a reference to an incident during the bloody 1980 election campaign when the Returning Officer for Central St Catherine, Dennis Brooks, was shot dead on the eve of the general election. At that time, too, the location of the polling stations was at issue.
According to Roofe's report, she said at the meeting that she would prefer to leave the system rather than allow herself to be killed. Days later, Roofe tendered her resignation to Walker and rejected all suggestions, insiders say, that she return.
But in last night's remarks, Grange claimed that she raised concern when the suggestion was made to move one of the polling stations to Willodene, stressing that it was a problem area and played a role in Brooks' murder.
Said Grange: "I reminded them that it was a controversial area and that it had caused a fatality because a returning officer had lost his life there in 1980, and we want to avoid that."
"I was shocked too hear that I threatened Mrs Roofe," Grange said.
But in his letter to Peralto, who is also the JLP's representative on the EAC, Walker said that Grange had admitted making the statement and he argued that it was too difficult to find any other purpose for the remark "other than to intimidate the Returning Officer".
It had had that effect, not only on Roofe but on the entire constituency office, he said.
"Mrs Roofe has resigned and I have accepted it fully, supporting the principle upon which she has resigned," Walker said. "Mrs Grange's remark, in whatever context, is an unfortunate and irresponsible act."
He added: "The remark and the fear that these types of remarks conjure are a strike against the goals of the electoral system, not just in Central St Catherine but also in the 59 other constituencies of Jamaica."