ECJ says Port­more may­oral poll go­ing ahead

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

US­ING OLD bound­aries that will ex­clude al­most 5,000 peo­ple from par­tic­i­pat­ing in to­day’s elec­tion of the mayor of Port­more could ex­pose the re­sults to court chal­lenges, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mar­lene Mala­hoo-Forte has ad­vised.

How­ever, Dorothy Pine-McLarty, chair­man of the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Ja­maica (ECJ), says that while the court chal­lenge “is quite pos­si­ble”, go­ing ahead with the elec­tions is out of “ne­ces­sity”.

Last week, Supreme Court judge Martin Gayle ruled that changes signed off on in 2015 by Noel Arscott, then lo­cal gov­ern­ment min­is­ter, breached the 2003 Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act, which es­tab­lished Port­more as a mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

How­ever, it has emerged that the rul­ing did not con­sider the Lo­cal Gov­er­nance Act 2016, which re­pealed the 2003 Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act and main­tained the de­ci­sions of the min­is­ter.

DOCTRINE OF NE­CES­SITY

In her opin­ion, sought by the ECJ, Mala­hooForte said go­ing ahead with the Port­more may­oral elec­tions un­der the wrong rul­ing can be done out of “ne­ces­sity”.

“The doctrine of ne­ces­sity is rel­e­vant in th­ese cir­cum­stances,” she said, point­ing out that the Elec­toral Of­fice of Ja­maica (EOJ), upon get­ting the Novem­ber 22 rul­ing, went ahead and changed the vot­ers’ list for the Novem­ber 25 spe­cial vot­ers’ elec­tion and to­day’s polls.

That list ex­cluded 4,837 elec­tors in 16 polling di­vi­sions in Greater Port­more North, St

MCLARTY

Cather­ine South­ern, Port­more Pines, and in St Cather­ine East Cen­tral.

“The law recog­nises that ne­ces­sity ex­cuses what it com­pels. As such, it is my con­sid­ered view that the ECJ (through the EOJ) may pro­ceed to hold the poll on the 28th (to­day), hav­ing al­ready held part of the said poll, which re­lates to the elec­tion work­ers and mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces.”

She added: “If the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Ja­maica ac­cepts this opin­ion, it is im­por­tant to note the pos­si­bil­ity of the fu­ture chal­lenge to the poll in the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Port­more.”

Pine-McLarty told The Gleaner that the nine-mem­ber com­mis­sion met yes­ter­day and ac­cepted the opin­ion. “We are sat­is­fied that the de­ci­sion taken on Thurs­day to pro­ceed with the elec­tion of the spe­cial ser­vices on Fri­day was the best in the cir­cum­stances, and, sim­i­larly, to con­tinue to­day in the Port­more Mu­nic­i­pal­ity as well.

“The de­ci­sion on the Len­nox Hines case did not take into ac­count the rel­e­vant pro­vi­sions of the Lo­cal Gov­er­nance Act, hence we had to re­vert to the 2003 bound­aries and sim­i­larly amend the list to co­in­cide with the re­duced mu­nic­i­pal­ity,” Pine-McLarty con­tin­ued.

Hines is the Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) can­di­date care­taker for the South­bor­ough di­vi­sion who, in 2015, chal­lenged Arscott’s de­ci­sion.

The Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party had called on the ECJ to re­ject the opin­ion of Mala­hoo-Forte and seek in­de­pen­dent ad­vice, say­ing that she was “clearly con­flicted” be­cause she was a JLP mem­ber of par­lia­ment.

The JLP is seek­ing to wrest con­trol of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity from the PNP, and some of the af­fected res­i­dents are from PNP strongholds.

Pine-McLarty said that the ECJ is not un­com­fort­able with the sit­u­a­tion, although she ac­knowl­edged that the af­fected res­i­dents could sue. “It is their demo­cratic right if they are un­happy and dis­sat­is­fied and have their doubts. Then they have ev­ery right to pur­sue that, and that is some­thing that is quite pos­si­ble in th­ese cir­cum­stances.”

The ECJ head also ex­plained that the com­mis­sion could not post­pone the elec­tions be­cause while the law pro­nounces on mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions, it is silent on mu­nic­i­pal cities such as Port­more. Mala­hooForte said, “There is, there­fore, a gap in the law.”

Some 93,054 peo­ple will be el­i­gi­ble to vote to­day for the may­oral po­si­tion be­ing con­tested by Keith Blake of the JLP and the PNP’s Leon Thomas.

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