PM expected to announce election date today

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness is expected to name the date of the next general election in the House of Representatives today.

Holness is expected to bring an order to Gordon House to end the current states of emergency (SOEs), which have been imposed in the Hanover, St James, Westmoreland, Clarendon, St Catherine, Kingston East, Kingston Central, Kingston Western, and St Andrew South police divisions.

He will also address a number of issues relating to his Government’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, and how the protocols will fit into the likely election campaign that is expected to follow the announcement.

Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) sources were tight-lipped when questioned yesterday about what is expected of the prime minister. However, it was clear that most sources were satisfied that the date would be announced today and the SOEs, which he had promised would not continue into an election campaign, would be replaced with new national security measures.

Holness last week joined Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips in meeting with private sector stakeholders, including business leaders and civil society, involved in the National Consensus on Crime.

That memorandum of understanding outlines the steps that must be taken for a sustainable reduction in crime, inclusive of milestones and agreements on a monitoring and reporting mechanism, and comes just in time to meet some of the challenges the country is expected to face with the removal of the SOEs.

In seeking an extension of the SOEs to September 3, Holness told the House of Representatives last month that the COVID-19 efforts will severely limit the way in which the security forces can respond after they are ended.

“And that is why I am here asking for an extension, bearing in mind that the strategy that we have put in place, once the SOE is taken away, then the workload of the police would be increased because the military would not be able to operate on its own without the police presence,” Holness explained.

He noted that the military’s limitations in the operations would mean the activities by the security forces would decrease.

“That is the main consideration why we are asking for an extension, given the fact that we are also using the same policemen and women who are manning the checkpoints, who are doing operations, many of them are also doing the security and logistics management of COVID,” he added.

He said, however, that there is a plan to deal with these problems, but it has to coincide with a less demanding response to COVID-19, which would allow the security forces to ramp up their response to community and other security operations.

The Electoral Office of Jamaica has already released the July 31, 2020 voters’ list with the names of nearly two million eligible voters. A total of 14,029 names were removed from the previous list, including 13,192 electors confirmed as dead. Electors added to the new list should receive their voter ID cards by mid-August.

The voters’ list is normally published twice per year, on May 31 and November 30. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the publication of the list was delayed to July 31.

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