Churches call for extended voting hours
Extended voting hours and priority treatment for senior citizens and the disabled are among a list of requests the Jamaica Umbrella Groups of Churches (JUGC) has made days before Jamaicans go to the polls on Thursday.
The churches, in a statement to the Electoral Office of Jamaica, said that they believe that time lags associated with COVID-19 health protocols for each elector would cause undue delays.
“We would like the voting time extended by one hour, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and not the 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. as scheduled,” the Reverend Dr Peter Garth, chairman of the group, said in a press statement issued late yesterday.
Constitutional expert Lloyd Barnett confirmed that the change was possible.
“The time can be amended based on how the regulation is framed. We can change it if we feel that it needs to be changed,” Barnett, an attorney-at-law, told The Gleaner.
The umbrella group, which includes the Jamaica Council of Churches, the Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, Church of God, and the Jamaica Pentecostal Union (Apostolic), argued that all Jamaicans should be concerned about the recent upsurge in COVID-19 cases and confirmed deaths.
“We believe very firmly that this is one of the pivotal moments when every one of us, as citizens of Jamaica, needs to follow the prescribed protocols set out by the Ministry of Health & Wellness,” the statement said.
Jamaica has recorded 2,459 coronavirus infections and 21 deaths.
The ecumenical group also lobbied for the Holness administration to strictly enforce the Disaster Risk Management Act, the coronavirus legislation that mandates the wearing of masks and social distancing, among other measures.
They also called for Jamaicans to fulfil their democratic obligation to vote.
“We ask that voters, in exercising their right, do so in a responsible way and follow the strict guidelines of the Ministry of Health & Wellness.”
The churches used the opportunity to urge the leaders of the main political parties to instruct their supporters to refrain from violence.
The hope for peace and the containment of the coronavirus will be bolstered by member denominations and local churches by way of prayer and fasting on Wednesday, September 2.
“We can fight and win the battle of COVID-19 if we agree together and act in a responsible manner,” said Garth.