The Full Story
The Senate has approved amendments to temporarily modify the Representation of the People (Postponement of Elections to Municipal Corporations and City Municipalities) Act, to allow the local government elections to be postponed for a further 12 months, to be held no later than February 28, 2023.
Piloting the Bill, today (February 4), Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said the decision was made to not hold the election at this time, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
She added that the holding of an election at this time would put the country at greater public health risk, particularly since COVID-19 numbers are indicating a downward trend.
“Now is, therefore, not the time to disrupt this downward movement with campaigning and the gathering it will entail. Achieving the best balance is what we are working for and that is what we seek to achieve,” the Minister said.
“A local government encompassing pre-election day and election day activities would undoubtedly increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by members of the public,” she said.
Mrs. Johnson Smith reasoned that given the increase transmissibility of the omicron variant and the country’s positivity rate, “which continue to reflect the pressure on our health systems, it would be unwise to hold the local government elections at this time”.
She added, too, that a local government election would demand significant resources, which are better spent on pandemic-related efforts, at this time.
“The Government allocated an additional $5.3 billion to the CARE programme during the months of November and December 2021 to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable in a targeted intervention. We have been putting resources in the hands of people who need it the most,” she informed.
Other Senators who contributed to the debate were Lambert Brown, Delroy Williams, Damion Crawford, Donna Scott Mottley, Charles Sinclair, Natalie Campbell-Rodriques, Gabriela Morris, Dr. Sapphire Longmore, Peter Bunting, Dr. Floyd Morris, and Matthew Samuda.
It will now go to Governor-General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, for his signature, after which it will become law.
In November 2020, the Houses of Parliament amended the Representation of the People Act, to postpone the holding of a general election of members to serve on the respective Councils of Municipal Corporations and a general election of the Mayor of the Portmore City Municipality.
This was due to the public health emergency posed by COVID-19, as well as the need for recovery from the extensive rains experienced in that year. The amendment created a special extension period for the holding of local government elections to a date no later than February 27, 2022.
Slated to be held every four years, the election was last conducted on November 28, 2016.