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By-elections and manipulation

Michael Burke

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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So Nomination Day for the Portland Eastern by-election takes place tomorrow, March 15. Today, I compare some by-election events of years gone by with the current one in Portland.

Fifty years ago there was a by-election in St Ann South Eastern caused by the resignation of Dr Ivan Lloyd. The by-election was set for March 17, 1969 — the day before the local government elections that year. At that time, the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Hugh Shearer was prime minister.

The date of the by-election a day before the parochial elections created a controversy. How were the voters of St Ann South Eastern to go to the polls to elect their councillors on election day having dipped their fingers in voters' ink the day before? The JLP instructed their candidates in the six local government divisions in St Ann South Eastern to withdraw their nominations so the People's National Party (PNP) won those six seats unopposed. Fortunately, there were no other candidates who might have refused to withdraw.

Lloyd was leader of the Opposition between 1944 and 1949 as Norman Manley, the then president of the PNP, failed to win a seat in the House in 1944. He resigned a few days after Michael Manley became the PNP president, citing problems with the new PNP leadership as the reason for quitting both the PNP and Parliament. Garland Lloyd, a son of Dr Ivan Lloyd, ran for the JLP in the by-election, but he lost to Seymour Mullings of the PNP.

The by-election in Portland Eastern, set for April 4, 2019, will be the third by-election in that constituency since the advent of universal adult suffrage in 1944. The first one occurred in 1953 following the death of Sir Harold Allan, Jamaica's first minister of finance. He was an independent member of the House whom Sir Alexander Bustamante included in his Cabinet.

Seven candidates entered the 1953 by-election race in Portland Eastern, and this included Ken Jones, who ran as an independent candidate but did not win on that occasion. With a well-divided vote, the PNP's Adrian Gray won the by-election. But while the PNP won the general election of 1955, Adrian Gray lost to Ken Jones, who ran on a JLP ticket in that election.

Kenneth Arthur Newton Jones, the elected representative for Portland Eastern from 1955 to 1959 and from 1962 to 1964 when he died, was a son of the land baron Frederick McKenzie Jones, who owned several thousands of acres in Hector's River and Manchioneal in Portland Eastern.

In October 1964, Ken Jones died officially from falling over a balcony while sleepwalking at Sunset Lodge in Montego Bay while the Cabinet was on retreat. So there was another by-election, this time the JLP candidate was Clement Afflick, the former Federal Member of Parliament for Portland. Afflick retained the seat in the by-election when he defeated the PNP's Ken Wright, who had defeated Ken Jones in 1959.

But despite the JLP's win of a second consecutive term in 1967, Clement Afflick lost to the PNP's Ken Wright by a slim margin of 67 votes in that general election. So, in the two previous by-elections in Portland Eastern, the winner did not retain the seat in the general election that followed.

Regarding Damion Crawford's statements about Ann-Marie Vaz, I think everyone should download the entire speech from the Internet to have a balanced opinion. It was actually a good speech in my opinion. But politicians do politicking.

In the 1970s, the late Phillip Waite ran for the JLP in Kingston Eastern against the late Eli Matalon and later the late William Isaacs. He promoted himself as “young, gifted and black”. Further, he challenged Michael Manley to use that slogan. That is politics.

Any criticism of a female politician by a man is criticised as having a problem with women. That is also politics — a tactic the PNP used when Portia Simpson Miller was its president. And the use of relatives of candidates who are of a different political persuasion has a long political history in Jamaica (such as Ivan Lloyd and son in 1969), not only in the St Mary South Eastern by-election when a brother of the JLP candidate was called up on a PNP platform.

In the summer of 1970 I was a volunteer teacher in a summer school in Hope Bay, Portland. I had a conversation with a “Mr Broadbelt”, an elderly man now deceased. He owned a furniture store and doubled up as chairman of the local PNP group in Hope Bay. He spoke of the by-election, six years previously, in 1964. He said he disliked by-elections because it brought a lot of outsiders into the constituency — which meant violence in those days. He also spoke about people from outside of the constituency voting in the by-election, albeit as registered voters.

Was this why Clement Afflick won the by-election for the JLP in 1964 by over 900 votes, but lost the seat in the 1967 general election? Incidentally, Afflick ran for the PNP in Portland Western in 1972, but lost to the JLP's Leopold Lynch.

In the St Mary South Eastern by-election in October 2017 the pattern of voting in all divisions in that constituency was basically the same, except in the Castleton Division, the one closest to St Andrew and St Catherine. I am told that hundreds of voters were bussed from St Andrew and St Catherine into polling stations in the Castleton Division.

In my opinion, transfer votes should only be allowed in general elections. It is unfair for voters to transfer their vote just for a by-election. After the 1974 by-election in St Ann North Eastern won by the PNP's Vivian Blake, the then Opposition Leader Hugh Shearer complained that a female PNP councillor from Kingston was seen with voters' ink on her finger.

When one political party pre-arranges voter transfers for a by-election and the other political party counteracts it by doing the same thing then the by-election result, either way, is really nothing but a farce.

Michael Burke is a research consultant, historian and current affairs analyst. Send comments to the Observer or ekrubm765@yahoo.com.


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