Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Portmore residents rendered powerless

Published:Saturday | February 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMHoward Hamilton

The Portmore Municipality Council was established supposedly in response to the need for improved local public services and an enhanced avenue for public participation.

It is a long-held view that it was citizens' agitation and activism that led to the then minister of local government (now prime minister) granting the community municipal status. That view was, however, dismissed in October 2010 when a review report of the Portmore Municipal Council conducted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies revealed that at the time the Portmore Municipal Council was approved and a Municipal Act enacted, there was a coincidence of interest between the Portmore citizen advocacy groups and the Government of Jamaica.

That coincidence of interest no longer exists, and for now it seems that the only interest being served is that of the ruling political party. The interest of the people of Portmore, when placed in the balance, was found wanting.

How else could the Government be allowed, for almost two years, to have duly elected councillors not representing their constituents in the Portmore Municipal Council at the local government level. Whose interest was being served when, following the death of the directly elected mayor, no general council meeting was held for three months and his death only

recorded in January 2014.

Whose interest was being served when the Minister of Local Government and Community Development piloted and passed the Municipal Validation Act (July 2014) and took two months thereafter to swear in the councillors thus allowing them to represent their constituents in the Portmore Municipal Council.

Whose interest was being served when the Government denied the electorate of Portmore to go to the polls to elect a mayor, citing that the cost of $50 million was too much to uphold a democratic process, while paying vast sums to elect a member of parliament in Westmoreland replacing a member of the party who died like the mayor of Portmore, coincidentally overseas? Whose interest is being served when, despite calls from the director of elections, a measly $1 million was allotted to facilitate a petition signing to sort out what was described as an untidy boundary situation?

In whose interest is it for the current municipal council to now operate without a duly elected Portmore Citizens Advisory Council as required under the Charter of the Municipality of Portmore Section 7? And in further disregard of the Citizens interest changes are being made to the Charter and the Municipal Act all in an effort to relegate the citizens to no more than bystanders.

In whose interest is it when major citizens' groups will no longer form a part of the Portmore Citizens Advisory Council whenever it is reconstituted? In granting the community municipal status to Portmore, citizens' participation was at the central point of a new process of governance. With their political interest being served, the citizens are being left behind to wonder, does the municipality still exist?