Sun | Mar 29, 2020

PM defends Clarendon SE by-election call

Published:Tuesday | February 11, 2020 | 12:12 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has defended calling a by-election for Clarendon South East, rebuffing criticism from the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP), which is crying foul.

Holness announced a by-election for the seat following the resignation of Member of Parliament Ruddy Spencer.

The prime minister set nomination day for February 12 and election day for March 2.

Senator Pearnel Charles Jr will contest the by-election on the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) ticket.

However, since the announcements, the PNP has indicated that it will not contest a by-election with a national poll believed to be mere months away.

The PNP also argued that Spencer’s resignation was not triggered by an emergency and has described the exercise as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Holness, in his first defence of the decision since the announcement, has, however, countered that it is part of the democratic process whenever a seat becomes vacant.

“Anything can happen why a holder of a seat may decide that it is now time, and when that decision is made, regardless of when it is made, the Government of the day has the duty to ensure that that vacant seat is filled,” Holness reasoned.

“You will recall that in 2000, North East St Ann was vacant. The member of parliament, for no obvious reasons, just decided he no longer wanted to be a member of parliament. The then prime minister did not see it necessary to fill the seat. It stayed there for almost two years before it was filled just before a general election was due. I never hear any cry then about public resources,” the JLP leader recalled.

SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY

Holness said that PNP politicians Portia Simpson Miller and Omar Davies, who recently resigned as parliamentarians, could have stayed until the end of the term but chose to leave.

“The Government did not vacillate. The Opposition called upon the Government, in no uncertain terms, to make commitments to have the elections quickly, and we weren’t mean-spirited, because if the MPs are not in Parliament, we have the majority ... , but we did because that is the essence and spirit of our democracy,” said Holness.

The prime minister thanked Spencer for his contribution to the politics and wished him well, but did not address talk that he would be offered a diplomatic post.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com