April 20, 2020 | By Hopeton O’Connor Dennie |
The COVID 19 pandemic has really set the stage for a new look at general elections in Jamaica. Constitutionally it is due by 2021, but as things now stand it is anybody’s guess what will happen next. We all seem to be living from day to day. The amount of confirmed COVID 19 cases and deaths seem to be our main focus today.
The said constitution to which reference has been made allows for a postponement for up to six (6) months from the constitutionally due date of March 2021. In the event of an extraordinary event like hurricane, epidemic, outbreak of war, to name a few events. This date can be pushed back for up to six months. A review by Parliament has to be made after that six month extension period. As it stands if COVID 19 is not controlled and the State of Emergency lifted it is unlikely we will see fresh elections anytime soon. This means PM Andrew Michael Holness and his Cabinet will be forced to legally rule until such time until a poll can be held.
1976 State Of Emergency
The State of Emergency alone is not this extraordinary event. It is the COVID 19 pandemic. In 1976 the then peoples’ National Party (PNP) formed the government in Jamaica. Then PM Michael Manley had caused to be declared a controversial state of emergency. He cited as pretext a threat to public order. Key Opposition figures were rounded up and detained. Among such detainees were Pearnell Charles Snr., now Speaker of the House and Hon. Olivia “Babsy” Grange, now Culture Minister and countless others. The PM then called a general elections despite the Opposition in disarray. PM Michael Manley was on sound legal ground when he so acted. The PNP won the elections and retained state power. This action by PM Manley was likely facilitated by hench-persons or politically corrupted individuals in high places. We have no evidence of this or any such conspiracy or complicity.
It was later unearthed that Michael Manley acted from political up-man-ship and that his actions were immoral if not downright illegal. So a state of emergency is not in itself a legal ground to postpone an election. Should PM Andrew Michael Holness hold the upcoming elections despite COVID 19? From my perspective as long as social distancing rules can be guaranteed … then the elections should be called.
Sunday School Affair
Politics is not about being charitable to your opponent. It is the pursuit of power by all means and if done illegally, make sure you are not caught as was the case with Richard Nixon. Most recently President Trump chose to dig up dirt on Joe Biden’s son with the hope of tarnishing his opponent’s image. Politics is a dog eat dog affair. Why should the JLP be concerned about the failing health of the PNP’s President and Opposition Leader Dr. Peter David Phillips? It is about getting and
holding on to power at all cost and all means possible.
When A Man Is Down …
We note the medical report of Dr. Peter David Phillips, Opposition Leader and President of the People’s National Party. We use this medium to wish the Opposition Leader a speedy and complete recovery. None of us are immune to the impact of failing health and when it can strike. Dr. Phillips has contributed much to our political growth as a young democracy. We wish him all the success as he faces this most daunting challenge.
When a man is down an opponent must seize the advantage to pull ahead. That is how it is.
Dr. Peter David Phillips fought off successfully a challenge to his leadership by MP Peter Bunting also of the 81 year old PNP later 2019. Did he not know then of his failing health?. We may never know the answer to that question. What we do know is that there is a pending general elections on the horizon and if it were not for the COVID 19 pandemic there would be the shouts of campaigning. Those plans seem to have been put on hold as we tackle this most urgent and deadly outbreak of a mysterious virus which so far has claimed thousands of lives across the world and counting.
It is our further perspective that the JLP leader PM Holness should use the earliest and move with alacrity at any, if not every opportunity should be seized to secure a second term in office. They say one good term deserves another. Obtaining State or other power is what politics is all about. Michael Manley did what was legal to hold on to power and left morality to Sunday School teachers. Did he do the right thing politically yes, as far as the PNP was concerned.
This pursuit of political power can be referred to as “tough love”. A political party has no other choice.
This is our perspective. What is yours? Feel free to disagree. The verdict is yours.
Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is a veteran journalist and also Senior National & International Correspondent for Vision Newspaper.