Archive for the ‘Election peace/violence’ Category

L.A. Lewis does his bit for political peace

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

cdcover1.jpgSocially aware deejay ‘Seven Star General’ Horace ‘L.A.’ Lewis, concerned about election violence, Lewis held his own peace meeting in National Heroes’ Park last Thursday.

Unfortunately, not many people responded to his press release by actually turning up. But L.A., who is a trained mediator with the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF), remains undeterred, as usual.

He had planned to, “… enlighten the Jamaican citizens about the vision that was bestowed upon him by the Almighty Jehovah about the two opposing parties, in several of his dreams.”

During the event he spoke to the Seven National Heroes, to ask for their guidance.

Having previously released ‘The Flood Song’, in memory of the victims of the 2004 Asian Tsunami, we asked him whether he might consider doing the same for those who have died because of election violence – a plea for greater national unity.

“Now that you mention it, that is a good idea. I’m off to work on it. Check me back tomorrow.”

Parties accept curbs on campaigning

Friday, August 31st, 2007

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The two major political parties have agreed to comply with a decision by Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas to support a ban on political rallies, motorcades and meetings in Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine.

People’s National Party (PNP) General Secretary Donald Buchanan says he’s confident that the ban will not affect the party’s chances at the polls on Monday.

And Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) General Secretary Karl Samuda says his party’s previous campaign work has placed it in a strong position ahead of the election on Monday.

Members of the Election Centre recommended the ban yesterday, after several violent incidents which were believed to be politically motivated.

Four people were killed in St. Catherine including a policeman and two others injured.

And in East St. Andrew, two JLP workers were shot and injured while traveling through the constituency with their candidate Dr. St. Aubyn Bartlett.

In another incident in Canterbury, North West St. James three JLP workers were reportedly shot in two separate drive-by incidents.

Taken from the Power 106 FM 5 p.m. bulletin

Police warn of plots to kill candidates

Friday, August 31st, 2007

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The police high command says it is investigating reports of a plot to kill some politicians ahead of the general election on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Linval Bailey said that police have increased security for politicians.

DCP Bailey also expressed concern about several killings during the past few days.

However he says there was insufficient evidence to conclude whether they were politically motivated.

He also said that the police were worried that powerful weapons are still in the hands of criminals and could be used to intimidate and cause confrontation on Election Day in several constituencies including West Portland and Central Clarendon.

Police are also concerned that some politicians have been inciting violence among their supporters but is confident about that security forces have planned well for Election Day when 20,000 police and army personnel will be on duty.

An command centre will be established at the Commissioners Office to track reported criminal activities while the police have committed to targeting hot spot areas for four days after the election.

Taken from the Power 106 FM 5 p.m. bulletin

Political flags still here, still dividing

Friday, August 31st, 2007

flag-1.jpgWhile the whole election campaign has been blown off course by Hurricane Dean; still flying in the wind are political flags, used to demonstrate party support and borderlines that separate differently aligned communities.

Flags - sometimes officially produced and printed by a party and other times torn from a piece of orange or green cloth - are one of the main symbols of party allegiance. However, much like European football hooligans, the rival colours can incite violence, by creating a clear demarcation, which exacerbates the divide between supporters.

Photo by Dayne Morrison: A Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) (foreground) and People’s National Party (PNP) ‘Portia’ flags flying on Maxfield Avenue, St. Andrew.

Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair demanded two months ago that all political candidates remove their party flags, posters, graffiti and paraphernalia.

Speaking on Nomination Day, August 7, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said: “I instructed my people that no flags should be put up, but I noticed that flags were put up on my way to the nomination centre.”

Flags remain a tradition in Jamaican politics.

At the intersection of Maxfield Avenue and Spanish Town Road in St. Andrew People’s National Party (PNP) ‘Portia’ flags are flown on one side and that of the Jamaica Labour Party on the other.

When visited, two residents, 32-year-old Peter and his friend, bar owner Rocky, 35, could be found standing on the borderline. Both were waving their green flags and ringing their bells.

“Di flag no really do nutten, a just some likkle idiot bwoi put up flag inna di place,” said Peter, perhaps oblivious to the flag in his hand. “PNP a thief, u affi watch u back wid dem people deh.”

“From ever since Maxfield peaceful man, no political war no gwaan but if all a one man drop out you done know say sum’n might gwaan,” added Rocky.

Over on the PNP side was a barbershop, operated by Michael, 37.

“Usually inna election dem (JLP) stay over fi dem side and do dem ting, and PNP stay over yah so and do our ting,” shrugged Michael when questioned about the divide.

In the barber’s chair was ‘L. Williams’, 31. But explained Mr. Williams, the divide didn’t necessarily ensure violence: “The area no really have no political violence, PNP and Labourite mix regular up yah, Labourite campaign when dem want and PNP campaign when dem want.”

More murders: can parties keep peace?

Thursday, August 30th, 2007


Political violence has again reared its ugly head, with the foreign press reporting further instances on the campaign trail. With newspaper polls placing both parties in a close race - with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) lead inside or barely ahead of the margin of error - the country hopes that both main parties act in the wider national interest rather than narrow political ambition and do all they can to cool their supporters.

Candidates ‘chat’ their opponents

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Election day on August 27 is right around the corner; or at least it was until Hurricane Dean caused a postponement of the election.

The heat of of political rhetoric had been rising prior to the bad weather on Sunday and the Political Ombudsman has already received complaints about candidates from their rivals.


Photo by Peta-Gaye Clachar/Staff Photographer: People’s National Party (PNP) President Portia Simpson Miller and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader Bruce Golding greet each other before the start of the Jamaica Debates Commission sponsored national political debate, held at the Creative Production and Training Facility (CPTC) in St. Andrew on Saturday, August 11.

Recently we saw Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate for South East St. Ann Peter Fakhourie label his People’s National Party (PNP) rival Lisa Hanna a “fool” and a “duppy”.

Not that we would want to give the impression Mr. Fakhourie has been alone in lowering the tone of debate; not forgetting the numerous attack advertisements.

But with all that said, decided to give candidates the opportunity to say something nice, or at least borderline civil, about each other. We asked a dozen candidates:

“What are two of the best traits in your opponent?”

And this was what they had to say …

Central Manchester

Peter Bunting (PNP)
“She is going into parliamentary politics at a time when most people her age would (not), so it shows a certain spunkiness.”
“She is good at managing the media.”

Sally Porteous (JLP)
“I have never being asked such a strange question … I don’t want to talk about my opponent. I want to talk about what I am going to do for Central Manchester. However, I have a great deal of respect for my opponent as well as John Junor the former Member of Parliament.”

South East St. Elizabeth

Norman Horne (PNP)
“He is friendly but he lies a lot.”
“He’s congenial but sneaky. He will listen to you and say ‘Yes’ but in the end he means ‘No’.”

Franklin Witter (JLP)
Despited repeated efforts was unable to get a response Mr. Witter. The last conversation with him, he was unable to speak as he was in a meeting.

West Portland

Abe Dabdoub (PNP)
“I have nothing to say about Mr. Vaz – good or bad. I think the press is trying to create problems and there, I have no answer.”

Daryl Vaz (JLP)
“Unfortunately for me I can’t tell you one because I haven’t looked to identify any. Based on his track record and his performance it’s very difficult to find one.”

West Central St. Andrew

Patrick Roberts (PNP)
“He can articulate very well.”
“He is very confident.”

Andrew Holness (JLP)
“One thing with him is that he is very ambitious.”
“He is a hard worker.”

North East Manchester

Paul Lyn (PNP)
“He has good oratory skills.”
“He is very persuasive – good at affecting emotions and motivating people to believe in him.”

Audley Shaw (JLP)
“I am very disappointed in my opponent. He is dishonourable and because of that he is not worthy to be an opponent.”

South East St. Andrew

Maxine Henry-Wilson (PNP)
“She has a political history because she has been in it before.”
“She is very aggressive in terms of her determination.”

Joan Gordon-Webley (JLP)
Mrs. Gordon-Webley said she was unable to participate in the vox pop, saying that she didn’t know enough about Mrs. Henry-Wilson.

Candidates await possible censure

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) will tomorrow makes its recommendations concerning the constituencies of West St. Thomas and South East St. Elizabeth, where violence could see elections being postponed from the national date of August 27.

“We are not anywhere near postponing at this time,” said Director of Elections Danville Walker today having earlier met with Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair and the candidates from those constituencies.

His recommendations will be submitted to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, which has the legal powers to request that the Governor General delay election dates. Mr. Walker had last week reminded the candidates that such action could be taken.

Mr. Walker said the Commission decision would make their decision by tomorrow.

A postponement would allow the redeployment of sufficient security forces to ensure peaceful elections in the constituencies.

The candidates are the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Rosemarie Shaw and the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) James Robertson in West St. Thomas and the PNP’s Norman Horne and the JLP’s Franklyn Witter in South East St. Elizabeth.

Mr. Walker said he told the candidates that a reduction in political tension was necessary and that he was satisfied with their response.

“Can’t take the slogans … no more sweet talk from the hypocrites”

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Were he alive today Bob Marley – who sang those lyrics – might have welcomed the ‘week of prayer and fasting/no campaigning’ announced by People’s National Party (PNP) President and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Announced at the same PNP rally on Sunday July 8 where Mrs. Simpson Miller revealed the election date of August 27 in Half-Way Tree, St. Andrew, the week runs from Tuesday July 31 to Monday August 6.

Just as she has attempted to associate closely with the Church, her predecessors Prime Minister, Michael Manley and Edward Seaga keenly received Marley’s invitation to come onstage and symbolically join hands with him at the One Love Peace Concert held in 1978 at the National Stadium, St. Andrew.

In that period, between the 1976 and 1980 election, political violence increased to a level that threatened to destabilise the country and led then Prime Minister Michael Manley to declare a state of emergency in 1976, when members of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) were detained without charge.

Three decades later many of the politicians active at that time are running for office in this election. Again political violence has reared its ugly head. As before, it is supporters from poor inner city constituencies that that have been murdered - their political representatives do not pay the same cost.

In Jamaica as in many political systems the personal relations between rival politicians can be quite cordial, albeit less so at election time; but at grassroots level it remains unfortunately, and sometimes violently, not the same case.

“O well politics is just tings fi keep the people divided and foolish, an’ put your trust in men y’know when none o’ dem cant do nuttin’ for you, because if you nah have no life, you don’t have anything y’know,” Marley once lamented of the political culture.

It is regrettable that with Election Day four weeks away both main parties disagree on the formalities of holding peace talks; rather than when and how many.

Politicians still use incendiary language in their rhetoric. They would be facetious to deny that addressing supporters from the campaign stage as ‘warriors’ and ‘foot soldiers’ is unlikely to encourage peaceful behaviour from the Party faithful.

Politicians can always talk of peace. Yet when asked if they could take a step further and support a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ modeled on that of post-Apartheid South Africa, Political Ombudsman Bishop Herro Blair replied that it is unrealistic, given the prevailing political culture which deters transparency.

Although the political culture may not change soon, prayers for peace might be a start. Pray that when the result is announced on Election Day the politicians will have already lived up to one promise, that of a peaceful election.

Also on YouTube: Marley, Manley and Seaga at the One Love Peace Concert

‘P’ is for pretty and not for politics

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007


Photo by Dayne Morrison: Mural promoting ‘Pretty P Wednesday’, a dance held each Wednesday in the downtown Kingston community of Tel Aviv.

Notoriously divided the neighbouring downtown Kingston communities of Southside and Tel Aviv are maintaining a tense peace.

This is thanks to parties, albeit of the dancing and not the political kind. According to residents the dances ensure that the peace holds since the communities do not want the weekly events either cancelled by the threat of violence or being denied a permit by police.

Tel Aviv is aligned to the governing People’s National Party (PNP), and Southside to the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

“The dance have a lot to do wid it, coz dem know say a unity we a deal wid, the vibes no really start spread inna di community yet,” explained Nadine, one of a group of women who promote the weekly ‘Pretty ‘P’ Wednesdays’ in Tel Aviv.

“We want party whole night we no want no ‘shot a fire a we dance dem,” added another of the ‘Pretty ‘P’ Crew’.

While men do not cross over the borderline to attend dances in the next area, the woman are at least partying uninhibited.

However for the men in the communities, they remain out of touch with their contemporaries across the borderline – the divide, which has estranged them since primary school age.

Dwayne Watson, a sixteen-year-old high school graduates, was one of several Tel Aviv youths who joined in a discussion with

“Mi use to go a school inna di area and most a my friend them was from south, but right now mi can’t see them friend deh again,” said Dwayne. “Right now mi hear say couple a dem turn gangster, and some a dem still a go a school like me now.”

“A di politics cause the division inna di area, of course if mi did born a south, mi wuda afi a live bad wid my friend dem weh me have right now and dat no right … if you wear orange certain place yah now, a straight gunshot.”

In Southside, engineer ‘Blacks’, 28 – the only person there willing to speak on the divide – shared the frustration of Tel Aviv youths.

“You done know she from the politics deh yah war ago increase, you can’t even sleep inna you bed,” said Blacks. “One time we use to walk go all a Tel Aviv and every man wuda hail u, but right now if you try dat you just a set up you own ‘nigh-night’.”

Politicians inciting violence, says NDM

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

ndm-copy.jpgFollowing recent political violence, the National Democratic Movement (NDM) is calling upon both main parties to moderate their campaign speeches and control their supporters.

In a statement issued this morning, Jamaica’s third party reserved especial criticism for the “empty-head talk” of People’s National Party (PNP) leaders, which it said was riling up supporters.

Political motives have been blamed for the recent murders of several Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters.

“It feels that Jamaican politics should not be in this awful state at this point in time of our history and (the NDM) again renews its calls for the dismantling of garrison and gangster politics,” read the statement.

Expressing condolences to the relatives of recent victims of political violence the NDM called upon voters to withdraw their support for candidates and parties, who use gunmen as an election tactic.

NDM website