ST. JAMES, JAMAICA (ELECTION 2016): Political campaigning banned in volatile Flanker.... Election Centre asks police to put brake on political rallies in tense Flanker

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com  Thursday, February 11, 2016    
THE Election Centre, which is co-chaired by the political ombudsman and the director of elections, has asked the police to immediately ban political campaigning in the volatile St James community of Flanker in the wake of the shooting death of four people between Sunday evening and Tuesday.
Jubilant Jamaicans out in support of their respective political
parties on Tuesday, Nomination Day.
In a release issued yesterday, Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown said both political parties have agreed to immediately cease marches, motorcades, spot meetings, political gatherings, as well as the use of town criers and loudspeakers in Flanker.
A release outlining details of the recommended ban came shortly after the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) issued its own statement yesterday calling on both political parties to rein in their supporters and threatening to ask the relevant authorities to put a stop to motorcades.
The ECJ’s call, however, was not specific to Flanker. “The Electoral Commission challenges the political parties and their supporters to bring greater discipline to the campaign process, failing which we will recommend to the political ombudsman and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that the use of motorcades, political rallies and tours be curtailed,” the commission stated. On Tuesday, Nomination Day for candidates contesting the February 25 General Election, an eight-vehicle Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) motorcade was shot up, leaving one person dead and three injured. That incident came just two days after another shooting incident in the midst of the JLP’s rally in Sam Sharpe Square, involving five people and resulting in two deaths.
Citing the incident as a major concern, the ECJ said it featred that “these occurrences could undermine the advances made in the electoral system over the past 35 years and which could threaten the democratic process in Jamaica”.
General secretary for the People’s National Party (PNP), Paul Burke, insisted yesterday that the PNP had “voluntarily” decided to stop campaigning in Flanker in light of the tensions. “We weren’t requested (to do it)… we voluntarily agreed, we took that position,” he told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
At the same time, he said that, while he fully agrees that there have been breaches of traffic laws by supporters on both sides of the political fence and that greater discipline must be enforced, there was no need to shut down motorcades as a whole because of one incident.
“Every case has its own merit. Since the campaigning began, the PNP has held about 50 motorcades, and the JLP about the same… now you have one incident which is regrettable, but you don’t go into panic mode,” he said in reference to the ECJ’s statement. more

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