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Electoral Commission of Jamaica putting Portmore's boundary issues to rest

Published:Wednesday | June 10, 2015 | 6:00 AMGary Spaulding

After prevailing in a court battle, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) will be attempting to put to rest the unresolved issue revolving around boundaries in two divisions of the Portmore municipality.

"Having collected the signatures, it is for the minister, whether the result must now be gazetted, to give effect to the new boundaries or to do nothing," said chairman of the ECJ Dorothy Pine-McLarthy.

The ECJ collected the required signatures for a petition to regularise the divisions in contention.

Pine-McLarthy told The Gleaner that with the ECJ having done its work, Local Government Minister Noel Arscott would have the final say on the way forward.

Irregularities had emerged because of boundary changes in 2010, which resulted in some members of the Portmore community being excluded from voting for a mayor in the municipality.

It also resulted in the councillors of the Greater Portmore North and Portmore Pines divisions being confined to the St Catherine Parish Council and not the Portmore Municipal Council.

After being dragged before the courts in its bid to resolve boundary irregularities, Pine-McLarthy told The Gleaner that she would be raising the issue with the other three selected members and four elected members from the Jamaica Labour Party and People's National Party.

The court turned down an application by two councillors - Keith Blake and Welton Shettlewood - who were seeking an injunction to bar the Electoral Commission of Jamaica from continuing to collect signatures to correct boundary issues in the Portmore Municipality.

The ECJ was being challenged in its bid to collect the signatures of seven per cent of the population of Portmore to get the go-ahead to fix boundary changes in the municipality.

Former chairman of the Greater Portmore Joint Council Howard Hamilton, on Monday, pleaded for the boundary issues in the municipality to be resolved ahead of local government elections, which are now constitutionally due.

In July last year, Parliament passed a bill to legitimise the actions of the acting mayor of Portmore and council members in the absence of a by-election to select a new mayor.

However, Hamilton said residents of Portmore needed a full resolution to the issue as the Portmore boundary issue had dragged on for too long without any clear signs that it would be resolved in time for local government elections, which are now past the due date of March 31, 2015.

Under the law, the latest date by which they must be held is June 30, 2015.

Hamilton contended that the Government was playing with democracy in a manner that could only lead to citizens staying away from participating in the democratic process.

He urged Arscott to work to resolve the issues so that should an election be called, residents in the affected division would not be denied the right to vote directly for their mayor.