Adrian Frater, News Editor
Milton Myles(second right), PNP Councillor/caretaker of south Savanna-la-Mar is outnumbered by JLP supporters. But it was all friendly bantering at the Savanna-la-Mar Primary School, on Election Day, yesterday.
The energy which had been building throughout the election campaign culminated in much enthusiasm in western Jamaica yesterday as thousands of voters turned out to exercise their franchise in Jamaica's 15th general election since universal adult suffrage in 1944.
From as early as 5:30 a.m., election-day workers and members of the security forces were seen moving briskly through various communities to the locations they were assigned. In fact, when the polls opened at 7:00 a.m., all was in place to accommodate early voters.
"We were well prepared ahead of time, so it was just a matter of executing our plans," said Electoral Office of Jamaica supervisor Sharon Walker-Frater, who was in charge at the Mt. Salem Primary and Junior High School in West Central St. James the polls opened early, the voting process was initially quite slow as a number of voters turned up without proper identification, forcing electoral officials to resort to other time-consuming measures to identify them.
The slow process of identifying and processing voters in some sections of North Trelawny earned the wrath of president of the Jamaica Alliance Movement, Ras Astor Black, one of the three candidates who contested the seat.
"I think the process is far too slow and I resent the fact that people have had to be standing out in the sun for such long periods," said Black. "In addition, I think having just one voting cubicle at the Salt Marsh Primary School was a big mistake."
In Eastern St. James, the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Edmund Bartlett expressed concern that a number of names which appeared on the preliminary list did not appear on the presiding officer's list, which prevented some voters from casting a ballot.
"Because the presiding officer's list does not have some ofthe names that appeared on the preliminary list, a few persons were not able to vote," said Bartlett.
One ugly incident
While the general mood was good, with even an open show of friendship between rival supporters in some constituencies, there was at least one ugly incident in North West St. James.
The incident occurred in Flankers, where a People's National Party supporter was detained by the police after he got into a scuffle with a JLP backer and then threw some liquid on him. It is not known if he was subsequently charged.
While there was much enthusiasm among the many first-time voters, it was an equally satisfying process for 91-year-old Isaac Jackson, of Lethe district in Eastern Hanover, who said he has been exercising his franchise for more than 70 years.
"I have been voting since I was 20 years old because I believe in democracy," said Jackson. "It is my hope that whoever wins will treat us well here in Eastern Hanover."