Members of the Senate approved the Local Governance Municipality of Portmore (Change of Name) Order Resolution 2018, during its sitting on Friday (November 2).
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith who moved for the Order to be approved, said it seeks to rename the local authority as the Portmore City Municipality.
Mrs. Johnson Smith, who is also Leader of Government Business in the Senate, informed that the change of name was requested by the municipality corporation led by Mayor Leon Thomas, “which they view to be of importance”.
She noted that in 2017, the corporation applied to the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development requesting the name change, which was approved by Portfolio Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie.
Senator Johnson Smith explained that the change was necessary given that the name provided little distinction to the public between the physical area of the municipality, that is, the geographical division that may be a city, town or grouping of towns and the executive local authority being the administrative body that had some degree of control over the geographic area.
“This was reportedly creating challenges for the administrative employees as well as the elected representatives in communicating with stakeholders to do business, provide services and marketing the local authority as an identifiable organ of development,” she said.
Mrs. Johnson Smith further explained that the names of all local authorities were officially changed from parish councils to municipal corporations with the passage of three strategic laws – the local Governance Act, 2016; the Local Government (Unified Service and Employment) Act 2016; and the Local Government (Financing and Financial Management) Act, 2016.
“The exception to this new designation was Portmore which already existed as a Municipality under the now repealed Municipalities Act and was therefore continued as a Municipality under Section 5, Sub-section 3a of the Local Governance Act,” she said.
The Senator further informed that the Order does not in any way alter the status of Portmore or the local authority, but simply amends the name of the authority in line with its existing categorisation as a city municipality under the Local Governance Act, 2016.
In the meantime, Opposition Senator, Wentworth Skeffery, while supporting the Order, pointed to an outstanding issue with respect to defining the boundaries of the municipality.
“We are seeking to have a change of name, but we’re not still fully clear as to the boundary that defines the municipality and what that new name will entail. This will have implications for electoral divisions within the city municipality and also for polling division boundaries within specific constituencies in Portmore,” he said.
He stressed that the boundary of the city municipality is critical to be settled “so we can have clearly defined areas (and) a clearly defined voters list for those citizens in the geographical area to so elect their mayor”.
The Order was approved in the Lower House on June 5, 2018.