Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness has defended the decision made by his administration to have a general election in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on Saturday during a debate with the leader of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP), Dr. Peter Phillips, Holness stated that other countries in the region have held elections, adding that Jamaica has one of the lowest mortality rates per capita and “we must go on with our society, we must go on with our economy.”
In response, Phillips lashed the Government for what he said was a disregard for the scientific advice of health personnel.
He said that during the Emancipation and Independence day period, it was recommended that restrictions should be tightened but this was ignored.
“The consequences have been devastating on the people of Jamaica. Yes there will be a pandemic but there is no need to ignore proper advice. There is no need to ignore common sense and there is ever need to protect the people of the country,” said Phillips.
The opposition leader also took the Prime Minister to task over the use of states of emergency (SOE) to tackle the country’s crime problem.
Asked about his decision to continue voting for an extension in SOEs despite stating that the measure is a “prolonged wholesale infringement of the rights of Jamaicans,” Phillips said the JLP Administration did not provide alternatives, and while it was a difficult choice, his party made the right one
But in his rebuttal, the Prime Minister defended the use of SOEs to address crime, stating that the people called for SOEs.
Concerning the possibility of a fixed election date – Holness said this remains an aspiration for his government.
The Prime Minister said other issues under consideration are the holding of a grand referendum on the buggery law and the decision to make the Caribbean Court of Justice the nation’s final appellate court.
For his part, Phillips said his government would move to develop the legislation to implement fixed election dates.
The leaders were participating in the debate, which was the final in a series of three debates in the lead up to the September 3 general election.
Tomorrow, August 31, early voting will be facilitated for election day workers, the police and military personnel, who will be working at polling stations across the island come Thursday.