Call elections now, says McKenzie
Despite repeated calls from Audley Shaw, the opposition spokesman on finance, that there should be no elections until the voters' list is cleaned up, Desmond McKenzie, another member of the parliamentary opposition, is pushing for the local government polls to be called.
Contributing to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, McKenzie, who speaks for the opposition on local government matters, said that local government, under the People's National Party (PNP) administration, is in a woeful state.
"We have hit new lows. And what is most perplexing is that there seems to be no letting up in sight," McKenzie said.
"I urge the Government to move full speed ahead by calling the local government elections now. No more postponement," McKenzie said.
His comments were in stark contrast to a position taken by Shaw who has consistently said that "no election should be held until a clean voters' list is generated".
Local government elections became due in March but can be extended for three months until June.
The governing PNP has the majority in all parish councils and local authorities across the island, having wiped out McKenzie's Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the 2012 elections.
On Tuesday, McKenzie argued that the 2003 local government elections were a watershed moment in the life of the local government system in the country.
Change under JLP
"It was a year that saw the JLP gaining control over a majority of the parish councils and with that, brought commanding influence to bear on the local government fraternity across the island," McKenzie said.
He said further that the period 2003 to 2012, when the JLP controlled the majority of councils was "one of the brightest and most promising periods in the history of local government in this country".
"We lifted the profile of local government in Jamaica. We caused people to believe again. We raised the bar and fostered a culture of effective and accountability-centred representation at the local level. We were the ones who made Jamaica aware of what a mayor is supposed to do. We were the ones who made people aware of what their elected local representatives were supposed to be doing: the maintenance of street lights; the preservation of order throughout communities; namely collection and disposal of garbage; and effective maintenance and cleaning of drains to mitigate incidents of flooding when it rains," McKenzie charged.
"What we took years to build and develop, they have destroyed within a matter of months," he added.