JIS News

The House of Representatives has approved amendments to temporarily modify the Representation of the People Act (ROPA), to allow the local government elections to be pushed back to a date no later than February 27, 2022.

The Bill was piloted by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, in the House of Representatives, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, on November 24.

Mr. McKenzie said there are significant challenges in holding the election at this time, given the fiscal and economic challenges caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as well as the recent damage caused by flood rains.

“The cost of staging an election at this time is a major factor, as the Government has to be responding to the needs of the country, and the financial constraints that the country is now experiencing because of COVID-19 and the persistent rains,” he noted.

“This Administration is one that consistently listens to the people, as we work in the service of the people of Jamaica. The general sentiment is that having the general election [on] September 3, 82 days ago, our citizens want us now to focus on the recovery from COVID-19 and the damage caused by [heavy] rainfall, so that they can return to a path of prosperity,” the Minister added.

He noted, too, that the local government election is being delayed to minimise and contain the spread of the virus. Slated to be held every four years, the election was last conducted on November 28, 2016.

The election would be due on November 29, 2020. ROPA provides for a 90-day extension, which would push the deadline to February 27, 2021.

“It is clear that more time is needed for this recovery process. Accordingly, the Representation of the People Act is being temporarily amended to facilitate the holding of the next local government elections on a date no later than February 27, 2022,” the Minister said.

Mr. McKenzie used the opportunity to assure the House and the country of the commitment of the Government in having the next local government election within the amended time frame.

For his part, Opposition Leader, Mark Golding, said he fully understands the exigencies that are behind this decision to amend the law to extend the period within which the local government elections must be held.

“We know that we’re going through a very difficult time in managing the pandemic. We have the Christmas period coming up, which is going to create additional challenges and we know that the recent rains, which are ongoing, have caused substantial damage to the country’s road network and infrastructure and, therefore, there is a cost factor at play, because holding elections does cost quite a bit of money,” he noted.

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