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Municipal elections delayed

Published:Wednesday | June 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

THE GOVERNMENT used its superior numbers in Gordon House yesterday to muscle through the passage of two bills for the postponement of local government elections for at least six months, but with the option of a further extension to no later than March 30, 2011.

Parish council elections, which are due by month end, are held every three years.

In a lively debate in Gordon House yesterday, members of the parlia-mentary Opposition sought to counter explanations given by the administration for delaying the election.

The Opposition said it could not support the measures and called for a vote on the bills. When the numbers were tallied, 29 government MPs said yes, 20 opposition members rejected the bills, while nine persons were absent.

The current state of emergency, limited to Kingston and St Andrew, was one of the reasons given for the postponement.

Reform of the local government system, which was contingent on three "strategic bills", one of which would facilitate the entrenchment of local government in the Constitution, was also cited for the deferral of the election.

The third rationale posited was that efforts to establish Portmore as the 15th parish had not yet been accomplished.

Breaking a vow

Derrick Kellier, the leader of opposition business in the House, accused the administration of breaking its "solemn undertaking" that parish council elections would not be postponed.

During the debate, strong objection to the Government's plans to establish Portmore as a parish came from Fitz Jackson, MP for South St Catherine.

"What I want the Government to do is to develop the capacity of the municipality to adequately service the needs of Portmore," said Jackson, whose constituency includes a swathe of the Sunshine City.

Defending the delay, state minister with responsibility for local government, Robert Montague, said three pieces of legislation to complete the programme of local government reform were submitted to Cabinet and drafting instructions would be given shortly.

Local government elections were last held in December 2007.