Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Editorial: Off base again, Fitz Jackson

Published:Tuesday | March 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Fitz Jackson, it seems, has not quite got it. So, he persists with arguments in favour of subverting the law if it achieves what he perceives to be a good, if nebulous, political outcome.

If that is not his intent, it is the implication of his response to our warning of the danger inherent in his effort to frighten Jamaicans that using the courts, as a first resort, to resolve inter-party differences on election/boundary issues is a route to catastrophe.

The first stop in all such matters, and especially in this case, he says, should be the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ). Especially in this case, we disagree.

The issue here is the move to expand the boundaries of the Portmore municipality to take areas of two St Catherine constituencies, one of which is Mr Jackson's riding of South St Catherine, that were adjusted prior to the last general election. Two Portmore politicians, Keith Blake and Welton Shettlewood, have taken the matter to the court, insisting that the Municipalities Act, under which the Portmore municipality was established, provides no basis for the adjustment of the boundary of a municipality once it has been established.

As we observed previously, in the absence of another law superseding the Municipalities Act, or an interpretation other than what seems to be an explicit declaration of Section 3(3) of the act, this newspaper cannot do otherwise but agree with Messrs Blake and Shettlewood.

 

accumulating signatures

 

The Electoral Office of Jamaica, the day-to-day functional arm of the ECJ, has continued to accumulate signatures to be used as the basis for the boundary changes, which Mr Jackson supports, even as he concedes that the EOJ was proceeding with the "full authority" of the ECJ and the "implicit concurrence" of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party.

While it is true that consensus decisions of the ECJ have helped to reduce political tension in Jamaica, Mr Jackson has not, on this issue, told the whole story. In this case, the ECJ/EOJ, in gathering signatures, is operating primarily as an agent of the local government minister, rather than its own volition.

What is at stake here is a legal test of the minister's power to cause the expansion of the boundaries of a municipality, and if he does, how it is to be done. That, in the circumstance, is a matter for the courts, unless Parliament clarifies the law.