Seeking permission not the norm for motorcades, says Chang
General Secretary of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Dr Horace Chang yesterday disputed claims by the police that no permission was granted for the party's motorcade that came under gunfire in the community of Flanker, in St James on Nomination Day.
Senior Superintendent Steve McGregor, head of the St James Police, said the police were aware of tension in the community, and had "asked specifically that no motorcade should come through Flanker".
However, Chang said that was not entirely correct.
According to the veteran politician, it was not the normal procedure for the police to give permission for a motorcade after nominations are over.
"So that's not quite true," he said of McGregor's claim.
One man was killed in the incident and a woman remains hospitalised facing major surgery.
The JLP general secretary conceded that the motorcade became "a little overwhelming" with "hundreds of vehicles that we didn't anticipate", but said he was not sure if there was the need for major changes to the way political campaigns are conducted.
"I'm not sure one would change things dramatically. It's normal in our political culture to do certain things in a certain way. A lot of these people are humble people, and they look forward to their campaign," he explained.
Chang said what should be noted is that "people were just wantonly and in a depraved manner shooting up people."
Tuesday's killing came less than 48 hours after three persons - two of them from Flanker - were shot and killed at a JLP mass meeting in Sam Sharp Square in the parish.
In the wake of the four deaths, the two main political parties yesterday agreed to immediately end campaigning in the community of Flanker.
"When we look at the situation, anymore loss of life is not worth it. Flanker obviously has some issues, which I don't understand, so I can't comment on," People's National Party (PNP) general secretary Paul Burke said, while explaining that it was a voluntary decision by both parties.
Cops urged not to grant permits
The agreement was announced by Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown after a meeting with representatives from the PNP and JLP. The ombudsman also urged the police not to grant permits for political events in the community.
"The Election Centre welcomes the decision by the political parties and encourages support for their decision," the ombudsman said in a statement.
The incidents in St James did not escape the attention of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, which indicated yesterday that it was deeply concerned about the four deaths.
"The Electoral Commission of Jamaica fears that these occurrences could undermine the advances made in the electoral system over the past 35 years, and could threaten the democratic process in Jamaica," the commission said in a statement.
The oversight body challenged both political parties and their supporters to bring greater discipline to the election campaign. The ECJ warned that if this does not happen, it would recommend to the political ombudsman and the police that the use of motorcades, political rallies and tours be curtailed.