Jamaica, electorally troubled Land We Love

Danville Walker, former director of elections in Jamaica, says “they will steal the election if they can.” By Gerald V. Paul
Danville Walker, former director of elections in Jamaica, says “they will steal the election if they can.”
By Gerald V. Paul

The Eyes Guy went into faith mode, offering blessings to those in Jamaica, Land We Love, reflecting on the need for a fair and free election and recalling that in 1944 for the first time Jamaicans were eligible to vote regardless of gender or whether they were landowners.
There, as here, voting is a right! Voting is a responsibility!
Democracy truly works if citizens, young and old, are active participants.
One of my Jamaican Eyesers who is engaged in the health sector said in a telephone conversation, interspersed with sobs, she was told by relatives not to attend a funeral in Jamaica because of violence at election time. An election, free from fear? Fear was alive and well as some citizens were injured and even killed.
In preparation for today’s voting, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica posted on Facebook: “Good morning everyone! Change starts with YOU.” with a photo of Mahatma Gandhi and his quote “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
The commission, added, “You may think voting changes nothing but in fact it is one of the most important means of making a difference. Remember, a government only has power because people vote for it.”
In a press release titled Reject All Forms of Political Violence, the commission said. “A strong and independent electoral system is essential for modern liberal democracies like Jamaica. Democracy is not an abstract; it is important for the transformation of a society, a nation, a country.
“Democracy is a system that provides its citizens with the most freedom, the most opportunity, the greatest prosperity, and the most comfortable life. In other words, creating a society which to live, work and raise families.”
The commission underscored the importance as citizens of Jamaica to become active, reject political violence, embrace peace and move forward.
Given that political forecasting, predicting political violence and the outcome of an election is often in error, Eyes will not “wax prophetic”. However, two research teams from the University of the West Indies using different methods project that the People’s National Party (PNP) will be back when the votes are counted.
Still, under the rallying cry “Step up The Progress” the People’s National Movement (PNM) has expressed confidence it will form the government when the votes are counted. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) which has vowed to lead Jamaica from “Poverty to Prosperity” has also expressed confidence that voters will elect it to form the government.
Eyes has covered elections in Guyana and I know the dangers involved.
“Sorry but you have to leave now,” a senior police officer told me as I was at the court hearing a petition from the opposition on the results and a protest was taking place outside the building.
The officer insisted three times then said: “You have to leave now or they (the protesters) will start throwing bottles at you.”
Eyes turned to the officer and said, “I am officially here as a foreign correspondent to cover this election and since my work at this location is finished I am leaving but not because of the potential violence.” A free press goes hand in hand with free elections.
Eyes has not covered an election in Jamaica but on one of six trips there, Eyes toured the Jamaica Observer offices.
Managing Director of the Observer and former director of elections Danville Walker said the major challenge in Jamaica’s electoral system is with the enumeration process.
“I want to put it this way: there is a game afoot and the game is more sophisticated and it lies in enumeration.” Walker meant people sometimes enumerated in constituencies where they do not reside.
He said the issues faced when he was director of elections are different now. “So the type of corruption you had when I was there it is going to present itself differently and what the electoral system has to do is constantly adjust with it.
“The political system will corrupt the electoral system. They will steal the election if they can,” Walker said then, a position he repeated in last Tuesday’s edition of the Observer.
“Any politician I met when I was director of elections I felt that, given an opportunity, they would steal the election.
“I even asked them ‘Do you believe in free and fair elections?’ And probably the most honest answer I got came from a general secretary of one of the parties – ‘It depends which day you ask me. I intend to win so you can sort it out afterwards because that is your job’.”
Continued prayers Jamaica, Land We Love!