Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Letter of the Day: Do not take the right to vote for granted

Published:Thursday | February 11, 2016 | 2:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

With the general election coming up soon, I think that more Jamaicans should take an active interest in politics because if they fail to exercise their franchise, their right to vote, our politics will disintegrate and become an evil that will destroy our country.

As a concerned and patriotic Jamaican, I am calling on the general public not to take for granted their privilege to exercise their franchise, their right to vote, which up to 1944 was not in their favour.

As a matter of fact, our people must understand that during the period of Legislative Council Governance in Jamaica dating back to 1865 and beyond, the male population seeking registration as voters had to meet certain qualifications, including being 21 years old, and ownership or occupation of a property. Similarly, female qualifications requirement in order to vote was much higher than males, and as you can imagine, a woman's application for registration to vote had to be not less than 25 years of age and she had to also show ownership or occupation of property.

 

WOMEN GIVEN A VOICE

No wonder women, especially during these times, are particularly grateful to have Portia Simpson Miller as prime minister who continues to advocate for their rights, because up to 1919, women in Jamaica were not given the opportunity to vote.

However, by 1938, the late Rt Excellent Norman Washington Manley, 'the man with the plan', organised the leading campaign

for Universal Adult Suffrage and ensured our personal liberty and freedom from colonial dominance.

Eventually, he gave evidence before 'The Lord Moyne Commission' and convinced the commissioners of what he was all about, and so they sought his views of franchise reform by November 14, 1944.

Then came the new constitution on November 20, 1944 - Universal Adult Suffrage, having a system whereby nominated and elected members were expected to take joint responsibility for making of policy and carrying out an executive government.

 

VOTING RIGHT CEMENTED

Consequently, it was announced officially that election to the new House of Representatives would take place on December 14, 1944. By now, Universal Adult Suffrage became the right of the Jamaican people whereby every man and woman of voting age was entitled to exercise their franchise, which is their right to vote.

As a people, by now we should be following in the footsteps of this political giant, wanting to go out in full force to exercise our rights to vote on election day, the 25th of this month.

Indeed, the Jamaican people should analyse the previous history of the Legislative Council Governance, and as they compare they would recognise that the bold initiative of Universal Adult Suffrage since 1944 has impacted greatly on the democracy of our country.

Valentine Pearson

valenempearson@yahoo.com