Thu | Sep 21, 2017

In attempt to split St Catherine Municipal Corporation ... Gov't to flex one-seat majority muscle, Opposition cries foul

Published:Wednesday | November 9, 2016 | 11:00 AMJovan Johnson
Paulwell
Holness
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The Government could use its one-seat majority in the House of Representatives to approve legislation that would split Portmore from the St Catherine Municipal Corporation.

If successful in Parliament, separation would make it advantageous for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to control St Catherine in local government elections scheduled for November 28.

St Catherine comprises 41 divisions, 12 of which are from Portmore. The separation would leave it with 29 divisions.

In the 2012 elections, the JLP won 15 of the non-Portmore St Catherine divisions and the People's National Party the other 14.

Yesterday, the Government tabled a bill in Parliament that proposes the separation and appeared intent on seeking its passage. However, the Opposition pushed back, saying the Government needed to consult with the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ).

The Government agreed, but said the debate would take place today.

Leader of Opposition Business Phillip Paulwell left the chamber angry that the Government was 'rushing' the passage of the legislation. "It is, therefore, inappropriate the matter being referred to the ECJ for them to do a recommendation, for the bill to be tabled. It is really forcing the hands of the ECJ."

 

'Tampering with democracy'

 

Paulwell also argued that a sitting today was not on a schedule he received from Smith for the rest of the year. "This is a disgrace! It is an abuse of the Government's power. I am urging that this matter of treating the Opposition with disdain be halted now."

"We're tampering with the democracy of our country. This Opposition will not allow it," he directed at the prime minister, citing his concerns that the ECJ was being pressured to support a government position.

That comment drew loud condemnation from government members who fired back insults at opposition members who shouted their support of Paulwell.

When Speaker Pearnel Charles eventually regained control of the House, Smith said he had a discussion with Paulwell about the schedule but "things have changed, and it is the business of the Government to decide when the House will meet.

"The leader of opposition business made a comment which is a very dangerous comment to suggest that we're tampering with democracy. The bill to which the member refers is a bill to actually enhance the democracy of the country," Holness said, rejecting the allegations of 'tampering'.

"There is no sinister motive; it is merely the speed at which Government has to work. We will be here (Gordon House) tomorrow (Wednesday) and we would love to see you," he added to desk banging from his side with a strain of "desperation" rising above from Denise Daley, opposition MP for St Catherine Eastern.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com