Letter of the Day: Consider constituency boundaries and reductions
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has reportedly announced that the Boundaries Committee of Parliament should be meeting before next March to determine whether Westmoreland should gain a constituency and Kingston lose one.
Such moves would be necessitated by voter registration trends in both parishes and the need to ensure that the upper and lower limits of the number of electors in the constituencies of those parishes are not breached.
As any such change is not likely to take effect before the impending general parliamentary election (even if we have not a clue when the prime minister's Master will touch her and tell her to call it), the ECJ should seek immediately after such elections to undertake the long overdue full re-verification exercise, the result of which should be used to determine the extent of any boundary changes and whether there should be increases or reductions in the overall number of constituencies.
As a temporary measure in the meantime, there could be a realignment of the existing constituency boundaries in Westmoreland, giving portions of the Westmoreland Central constituency to the other two constituencies. A similar exercise should be done in Trelawny and in St Andrew, where St Andrew North Eastern is at the lower limit.
Importantly, however, Parliament should consider amending the Constitution to change the formula used to determine the size of constituencies, bearing in mind the changing dynamics that make or should make modernday political representation less troublesome.
Developments in telecommunications technology; improvements in our road network, even if some challenges remain with our more local roads; and the ease of transportation should all make it much more convenient for members of parliament (MPs) to better engage their constituents. Additionally, the better use of the councillors, who represent smaller segments of their respective constituencies, should take some of the pressure off the MPs.
After all, it should not be necessary for parliamentarians to be physically seen or touched by their constituents, whatever import some constituents attach to same. I could not care one iota whether I see my MP, so long as I can see and be satisfied with the quality of his work and representation made on behalf of all the constituents.
It is my considered view that the total number of constituencies should not be more than 47, broken down by parish as follows, based on the most recent voters' list:
Clarendon, four; Hanover, two; Kingston, two; Manchester, three; Portland, two; St Andrew, eight; St Ann, three; St Catherine, eight; St Elizabeth, three; St James, three; St Mary, two; St Thomas, two; Trelawny, two; and Westmoreland, three.
On a related issue, since we have continuous voter registration, why can we not have continuous (monthly) updates of the voters' list? There should be no more than 30 days between a person being registered, verified and added to the voters' list.
With a monthly updated list, the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) would not have to publish same as widely as now obtains. It could make the monthly list available to the EOJ constituency offices as well as on its website, and to the political candidates as necessary.
Under this new arrangement, the list immediately preceding the month of nomination day should be the list used for said elections. As an added consideration, much fewer Jamaicans should be at the risk of being disenfranchised than under the current system.
KEVIN K.O. SANGSTER