KINGSTON, Jamaica, March 5, 2019 (CMC) – The main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has criticised Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, over the decision to change the date for the by-election in Portland Eastern, from March 25 to April 4.
A brief statement, issued by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) on Monday night, stated that the change in the date came “after further consideration and consultation”, and takes into “account the public holiday of Ash Wednesday, which falls on Wednesday March 6, 2019 and which is an ‘excluded day’ for the purpose of section 21 (1A) of the Representation of the People Act”.
The Act provides that the day appointed for nomination day shall be at least five clear days after the announcement of an election.
Nomination Day was originally set for March 8, but the OPM statement said that it will now be on Friday, March 15.
The seat became vacant following the murder of Dr. Lynvale Bloomfield, whose body, with several stab wounds, had been found at his home on February 2.
Police have since charged 20-year-old Simeon Sutherland in connection with the murder, after initially taking him into custody and releasing him last month.
The PNP has named Damion Crawford, as its candidate for the by-election. He is being challenged by Ann-Marie Vaz, the wife of Douglas Vaz, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, whom the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has named as its candidate.
PNP and Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, has described the change in dates for the by-election as an act of gross incompetence and, ultimately, an expression of disrespect to the Jamaican people, in general, and the voters of the constituency, in particular.
In a statement, Phillips said this “unprecedented act boggles the mind, as to the quality of legal advice being provided to the prime minister.
“This should never happen in any self-respecting democracy, without someone being held accountable,” he said, calling on Prime Minister Holness to provide a proper explanation to the citizens, as to how an election date could have been announced, before a thorough check for compliance with provisions of the Representation of the People Act.
Phillips said he has held discussions with the legal advisors of the PNP and is now satisfied that the new nomination date complies with the law.
Phillips added that it was unfortunate that the prime minister’s terse announcement, regarding the change of date, did not even contain an apology for this disrespect, as many had put in place personal arrangements for both Nomination Day and Election Day.
He said regrettably, it has become common place for Prime Minister Holness and his government to pay scant regard to the people and the Jamaican Constitution in many of their decisions.