Fri | Aug 18, 2017

St Thomas JLP councillors acted lawfully – Attorney General

Published:Wednesday | January 4, 2017 | 1:24 AM
Malahoo Forte

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte has reportedly declared as lawful the election of both a mayor and deputy mayor by Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councilors in St Thomas.

Local Government Minister, Desmond McKenzie, is now urging the five candidates who won their divisions on the People’s National Party (PNP) ticket to get sworn-in at the council’s next meeting.

The PNP candidates boycotted the December 8 swearing-in ceremony at the Municipal Corporation following the November 28 local government elections.

They had wanted the ceremony to be postponed pending the hearing of an election petition they filed seeking to bar the installation of the JLP councillor for the Yallahs Division, Dean Jones, on the basis that he lives outside of the parish.

In their absence, the JLP Councillors, who command the popular vote in St Thomas, chose both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor from their ranks.

This despite a five-five tie in the council and a convention which usually sees the mayor coming from the party that won the popular vote and the deputy mayor from the other party.

However, McKenzie says the Attorney-General’s Chambers in an opinion issued on December 15 concluded that the JLP Councillors acted in a manner that was consistent with the Representation of the People Act.

It states that the Act provides that in the event of a tie, the principal returning officer shall cast a vote in favour of the Councillor who has the support of the political party that received the popular vote.

It further states that the returning officer should thereafter preside over the election of the Deputy Mayor and in the event of a tie in the votes, exercise a casting vote in favour of the Councillor who is not from the party from which the mayor was chosen.

Malahoo Forte says that with the absence of the PNP Councillors-elect from the swearing-in ceremony there was no tie in the votes and, therefore, the returning officer would not need to cast a deciding vote.

McKenzie says the Government is not averse to discussions about the matter with the Opposition, but insists it is negotiation and not court action which will resolve the impasse.

He’s urging the PNP councilors to honour the people who elected them and begin participating in the life of the St Thomas Municipal Corporation.

On December 23, the PNP councillors in the St Thomas Municipal Corporation wrote to Prime Minister Andrew Holness giving him 14 days to have Deputy Mayor Michael Hue resign.

There’s been no public response from Holness.