Time run­ning out!

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

EOJ puts Hol­ness on no­tice for lo­cal gov’t polls

IF PRIME Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness in­tends to hon­our the law and have lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions held by De­cem­ber 29, his time to an­nounce a date is run­ning out, as the Elec­toral Of­fice of Ja­maica (EOJ) says the con­di­tions are now “less than ideal” for con­duct­ing the polls. “My ideal, in or­der to be re­ally fully pre­pared, is three months, but I can work with two months. You be­gin to get a lit­tle ner­vous once it goes be­low that,” Di­rec­tor of Elec­tions Or­rette Fisher told The Gleaner in an in­ter­view about the pre­pared­ness of the coun­try’s elec­tion ma­chin­ery. Gov­ern­ment mem­bers have been ap­pear­ing on po­lit­i­cal plat­forms in re­cent weeks trum­pet­ing the work of the ad­min­is­tra­tion since the Ja­maica Labour Party’s gen­eral elec­tion win in Fe­bru­ary.

But Hol­ness has not given any in­di­ca­tion whether the lo­cal gov­ern­ment polls will take place this year.

Sources say a state­ment on the polls is likely this week.

The time­line was set last year based on laws passed, push­ing back the elec­tions that were due then.

BUD­GET AP­PROVAL

Dr Ho­race Chang, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the govern­ing Ja­maica Labour Party, had said Hol­ness had to make his de­ci­sion on whether the elec­tions will be called this year by the end of last week in or­der for money that the EOJ will need to make it in the sup­ple­men­tary bud­get.

That bud­get, Chang said, is set to go be­fore the Par­lia­ment for ap­proval in the first week of Novem­ber. It’s not clear if Hol­ness did, and fi­nance min­istry of­fi­cials’ work on the bud­get is still on­go­ing.

Fisher said his of­fice needs $1.3 bil­lion and more than 30,000 work­ers to con­duct the elec­tions in 228 di­vi­sions across Ja­maica, as well as the may­oral vote in Port­more, St Cather­ine.

“I have no for­mal in­di­ca­tion from any­body that the elec­tions will be held. Why I am do­ing what I am do­ing, in terms of pre­par­ing, is be­cause I am aware that the elec­tion was put off to be held by the end of this year. So, un­til or un­less I hear oth­er­wise, I am do­ing what­ever I can do to ini­ti­ate the prepa­ra­tion. It is not some­thing that can be done within the statu­tory time limit in terms of hir­ing, train­ing and pro­cure­ment and all that,” he ex­plained.

Con­tin­u­ing, he said: “I would do ev­ery­thing within my pow­ers to en­sure we have a cred­i­ble elec­tion, but if I am un­able, then I would be forced to make a pub­lic an­nounce­ment. The law does, in fact, make al­lowance for the elec­tions to be put off, and one of the grounds for elec­tions to be put off is if the elec­tions sup­plies

are not in place,” he told The Gleaner.

ELEC­TION SUP­PLIES

Sup­pli­ers have been placed on standby should the elec­tions be called any­time now. The elec­tions boss said some of the sup­plies that would have taken a longer time to get like spe­cially made en­velopes and forms were pur­chased from last year when the elec­tions were first due. A “trou­bled” man Fisher said he would have been if those were not al­ready pro­cured and the elec­tions were to be held in two months. “Lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions were sched­uled to be held be­tween March and June of 2015, so I did pro­cure, at that time, some of the things that I would need – things that are spe­cific to the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions. Had it not been for that, I would be trou­bled and con­cerned.” Un­der the Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Peo­ple Act, nom­i­na­tion day shall be at least five clear days af­ter the an­nounce­ment of an elec­tion. The law also pro­vides for elec­tion day to be at least 16 days or not more than 23 days af­ter nom­i­na­tion day. The Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party won 12 of the 13 par­ish coun­cils con­tested in the last lo­cal gov­ern­ment polls held on March 26, 2012.

FISHER

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